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Director Alastair Orr On The Dynamics of 'Triggered'

November 13, 2020
3 min read time

Triggered director Alastair Orr (House on Willow Street, Indigenous) said he connected immediately to the thriller script, written by David D. Jones. 

“Even though I didn’t write it, my personality came through it,” Orr says. “ I didn't know how people were going to react to it, so I was like, ‘Okay, I don’t know how anyone else is going to make this movie, so maybe I should.’’

The plot, which Orr describes as “millennial teen comedy meets horror,” centers around nine friends, all harboring a dark secret, who go on a reunion camping trip in the woods. After a wild night of partying, they wake up with suicide bombs strapped to their chests that feature varying times on their countdown clocks. They decide to work out how to disarm the bombs or find help – until they discover they can 'take' one another's time by killing each other.

In this way, the title Triggered is two-fold: it describes both the detonation of the bombs and the reactions that the friends have with one another as a result of their triggering circumstances. Orr says it was that dynamic that intrigued him. “When you put a group of friends together in a room, they’re going to act a certain way. And then when the party breaks up, they’re going to act differently. I wanted to explore the split dynamics of people and the masks we wear around different people. I wanted to explore the two-faced nature of humanity and how we act around others, the manipulations, and ultimately, how these friends stabbed each other in the back.” 

Orr grew up in South Africa watching RoboCop and Terminator, and while he says he’s “always going to be connected to the darker side of things” when it comes to movies, he leapt at the chance to make a lighter movie. 

“This is the first movie that I've ever done that had jokes in it. I was excited about it, but I was also scared,” he says. “In straight thrillers or sci-fi movies, you can fix scenes with music or editing or something in post to improve them. But with comedy you can’t do that. We needed the right actors to deliver those lines.” 

Orr believes it’s important to have tense moments mixed with levity, as well as some easier moments for the scary moments to really play out. “I think there needs to be a catch and release. I like going to watch a horror movie at the movie theatre and you feel like you’re on a roller coaster ride. You feel like you’re riding up the roller coaster, hearing the chain clinks with your friend next to you — and then you get that surge of release.” 

When it comes to the climax in a horror movie, Orr says it’s all in the set-up. “You need to throw the bread crumbs. You need to carefully set it up in the beginning. The audience needs to be surprised, but they can’t ask, ‘Where did this come from?’ It needs to be earned and make sense.” 

When translating scripts to the screen, Orr says he first asks, “I think, can we do this? Is this achievable? Then I look at how I can do it as good as it can be. I do a lot of time story boarding and creating the shot list. I reference a lot of films and see what they’ve done and what I think has worked well, and then add a spin to it. There’s a little bit of magic to it, as well. Everyone has their own personality and so I’m working with my own ideas and creativity and then mish mash it all together and hopefully it doesn’t suck.” 

For aspiring horror film auteurs, Orr says foremost it’s essential to have passion. “You can’t do it just for the fame and the glory. You have to do it for the love of the story and put it out there. Try to surround yourself with a good group of colleagues who support you and who will help you through it.”

But ultimately, he says, it’s all about the script. “It’s the important thing. Don’t worry about anything else. Just work on the damn script. I was way too liberal with my first scripts. If you can’t do the script, get someone who can. It just changes the game when you have a proper script. It makes a world of difference.”

 

Triggered is now available on digital platforms.  

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