CATEGORIES Action, Drama, Horror, Thrillers, SXSW, Theatrical Reviews, Cinematical Indie, Reviews, SXSW Film Festival, Cinematical
There's so much I like (and want to like) about Ti West's Trigger Man that I'm willing to overlook a few flaws and missteps. For example, the movie moves amazingly slowly. I'm sure that Mr. West knows it's a fairly draggy experience for the first two acts, and that's probably exactly how he wants the movie: Lull the audience in and convince them that this three-person hunting expedition is the pinnacle of all things mundane. This approach allows the eventual horrors to feel all the more shocking and realistic. And while there's certainly nothing wrong with the "slow burn" approach to thriller flicks, Trigger Man often threatens to slow down to a literal crawl. I may have been interested in the skimpy and admirably minimalistic story ... but damn if I wasn't fidgeting in my seat more than once or twice.
The plot is like Deliverance Junior, minus the man-on-man rape. A group of three pals head into the forest to hunt some deer. (This takes up the first half of the movie.) Eventually a shot rings out and our three protagonists have become two. The second half of Trigger Man is focused on the pair of survivors and the methods in which they try to escape from a killer who's as accurate with a rifle as he is virtually invisible. Based on actual events, Trigger Man offers a stripped-bare woodland thriller that probably would have worked a whole lot better as a 50-minute film, but it takes feature-length to get any attention these days, and I suspect that Mr. West was compelled to simply stretch the thing out as far as it could go.
Even at a scant 80-minute running time, Trigger Man seems to spin its wheels a whole heckuva lot. It's certainly not a bad movie -- the third act is really quite solid -- but even the most patient of viewers will be itchin' for the flick to get movin' already. West's hand-held and herky-jerky directorial style lends a realism to the proceedings, and his tiny cast (Reggie Cunningham, Ray Sullivan and Sean Reid) does a fine job with three "normal guy" roles -- but as an example of how to set tension down, TM is a mixed bag at best. The handful of jolts and sudden dispatches are ice-water effective, mainly because we're asked to wait so long for the terror to show up, so I suppose it's a catch-22. Without the ultra-slow build-up, the scary bits simply wouldn't be as effective -- but damn this thing takes a while to gets its engine revving.
Between this one and The Roost, it's obvious that Ti West (who's now working on Cabin Fever 2) knows a thing or two about how to unnerve and engage an audience, but overall I'd call Trigger Man a watchable curiosity, no more and no less. The flick's got just just as much first-half "filler" as it does second-half intensity, so if you're a patient genre fan, I've no problem recommending the movie. By the time it's all over and the bullets have been spent, the good points do outweigh the bad, but not by a whole lot.