THE TRIGGER EFFECT is a Hitchcockian thriller about everyone being
reduced to their most basic instincts, the bottom of their Maslow
triangle. Through a massive and long lasting power outage people
revert to animal behavior. Much like TESTAMENT, this show presents a
convincing tale of what could happen. After the ten state power outage
this month, the show is especially topical.
THE TRIGGER EFFECT is written and directed by first time director
David Koepps. His writing credits include MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, THE
PAPER, and JURRASIC PARK so he is skilled with the art of tension.
Here the show is a massive web of tension.
The film opens with two coyotes eating their kill. This is
followed by a fast cut to a nearby power plant. Soon we cut again to a
scene at a movie theater. As in SLACKER, the scene moves from person A
to B and then B to C, etc. Each time there is an incident that almost
happens and doesn't, but the writer serves notice that you can expect
these characters back again.
Matthew (Kyle MacLachlan) and Annie (Elisabeth Shue) return home
after getting cussed at in the theater. They are pretty shook up, but
soon forget it as Annie starts turning Matthew on. Just when they are
about to make love, baby Sarah cries out loudly. This great little
scene ends as they immediately start a game of rock-paper-scissors to
see who will have to go sit with Sarah.
Soon the power goes out. It is a hot and sticky night so this is
a terrible inconvenience. They look outside, and the whole city is
When they wake up, the power is still off, and their baby's ear
infection has gotten much worse. She must get medicine, but the phones
and the radio are out too.
Now the terror starts. The pharmacist will not give Matthew the
medicine because the doctor is unreachable. Put yourself in Matthew's
shoes. Imagine the horror of your baby getting sicker and sicker, and
yet the drugs she needs are so close you can almost reach over the
counter and touch them. It is at this point that the bounds of normal
civilized behavior begin to get violated. This ordinary man getting
caught in circumstances beyond his control is a classic Hitchcock
Their high school friend Joe (Dermot Mulroney) comes by, and they
begin to discuss what caused the outage and how bad the situation is.
He gives out a lot of theories, many funny including "The Martians have
landed. They want our women." Eventually he gets serious and says he
has heard reports of massive looting and killing. He and Matthew go
and buy a gun to protect themselves.
After a while this all becomes a lark, and they drive into town to
see what is happening. I have friends that drove into Manhattan from
New Jersey during a massive power outage in the late 70s so I know this
is a normal reaction for some.
The second night finds the three of them together in the
candlelight of Matthew and Annie's house. After too much wine, a
romantic triangle begins to develop. The script is excellent
throughout. A great mixture of tremendous tension followed by a little
humor. After one fight, Anne tells them, "Boys, if you can't play
nice, we're aren't going to have any more of these little sleepovers."
At one point Matthew asks a cop, "Is it bad out there?" But the cop
just replies, "Out where?"
The rest of the show has them coping with an ever more hostile
environment. People revert back more and more to their animal
ancestry. Every few minutes, the tension ratchets up some more.
This is not a show where suspension of disbelief is necessary. As
presented, it is all plausible and is made even more so by some
excellent pieces of acting by the cast. Shue (from LEAVING LAS VEGAS
and ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING) and MacLachlan give fascinating
performances. People in ordinary circumstances sometimes are forced to
do things they would never consider otherwise.
Small parts of the script really hit home. None of the plastic
works. Only cash is accepted. In the power outage this month we were
in a toy store trying to buy something with my credit card when it was
made inoperable without power. Moreover, without power no one could
figure out the price nor would I have had exact change anyway.
The low and pervasive music by James Newton Howard serves as a
Chinese water torture on the audience. Editor Jill Savitt knows just
when to cut so that the audience stays on the edge of their seats.
Many small scenes are excellent. One of my favorites is a big
confrontation with guns that gets resolved amicably in a surprising
THE TRIGGER EFFECT runs 2:02. It is rated R. There is no sex or
nudity, and generally the language is pretty mild. There is some
violence, but nothing gory. I think the film would be fine for most
kids ten and up, regardless of the rating. I recommend this thriller
to you and award it ***.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes