It would be entirely easy to misconstrue Chris Moore’s point while watching his film, Triggered. This isn’t a film that can be taken at face value, and it’s certainly not one you should give up on halfway through, which I admit I almost did.
In the film, Callee (Meredith Mohler), a self-appointed (aren’t they always?) captain of the PC police, spends her days calling out every perceived social justice infraction in the most shrill voice imaginable. She, most recently, had a blind cafeteria worker fired for serving a black student fried chicken, much to the chagrin of her principal, Gloria Fielding (Amanda Wyss).
Her only friend, Ian (Jesse Dalton), supports her as best as he can, though she makes it difficult when behind closed doors her facade vanishes and her nasty tirades include more than a few homophobic statements hurled in his direction.
The problem is that Callee doesn’t just want to feel special, she needs it, and if the only way she can be special is to spend her time calling out perceived injustices on everyone else’s behalf, whether they like it or not, then that’s what she will do.
When her efforts fail, and more and more people turn against her, she convinces Ian to fake an attack by a legendary serial killer. Little does she know that the killer is watching her every move and he or she might just be triggered themselves.
Moore sat down with iHorror last week to discuss the film’s origins, audience reactions, and the overall message of the film.
For Moore, this all began when a friend forwarded an article to him involving a protest by white university students who were angry that the sushi being served in their cafeteria was made by non-Asian people.
“I kind of had to laugh at first,” Moore said. “But then I started looking and finding more articles about similar protests from across the country.”
By the time he had accumulated dozens of articles, an idea began to grow for a story that could be both dark and comedic. Combining elements from people he knew in real life and from instances he had only ever encountered online, the central character of Callee began to take shape.
“She really makes me laugh, and I figured if she made me laugh, she might make other people laugh as well,” he explained. “But she’s also really complicated. There are times when she makes really good points and then there are times when you just want to ask, ‘What is wrong with you?!'”
Naturally, it became essential for Moore to find an actress who could pull off both of these facets, but could add an almost dangerous level of intensity to the role, and he was excited when Mohler was able to not only play the duality of the character but in his own words, “felt like someone I could imagine harming me under the right circumstances.”
Once she was attached to the role, Moore also says he had a discussion with her about not making Callee likable.
“When actors have a character who is unlikable, they tend to try to tone them down a bit,” the director pointed out. “I told her she had to make Callee as unlikable as possible so we could see what happened.”
In the end, he admits that some people get it and some tell him they just can’t watch it because the character is a bit maddening.
The entire tone of Triggered can be off-putting. Moore knew this from the beginning.
When we watch a film, the main character is generally the moral center or at least the lens through which we will view the film. In this case, however, Callee’s skewed perspective forces us to look elsewhere for character connections, and Ian and Gloria Fielding–the two characters who have actually been subjected to various forms of bigotry and isolation–ultimately become the humanity of the film.
Dalton, who Moore knew from online interactions, turned in an audition that was funny and moving and immediately drew the director to the quirky young actor, even though Dalton had never worked on a feature film before.
With scream queen Amanda Wyss, however, it was a matter of dreaming big and taking a shot.
“I had just seen Amanda in a film called The Id, and she was just so good in that, and I thought she could bring the heart we needed for Gloria,” Moore explained.
He managed to get the script into her hands and to his great surprise, she immediately responded to the material and quickly came on board.
With the film finally finished, Moore headed to its premiere anticipating backlash from the audience on a number of levels, but to his surprise, very few of the expected points of contention seemed to come his way.
Rather, it was a love scene between Ian and another man that people found “off-putting”.
“The majority of comments I heard said ‘the scene between the two guys was a bit much,'” Moore said, laughing. “And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Was it, though?’ For me, it was equally as gratuitous as any hetero sex scene I’ve seen in a horror film and the haters on this point can suck it up. They’re only uncomfortable because it was two men.”
I guess you might say they were triggered…
Triggered is currently on the festival circuit with its next appearance scheduled at Horror on Sea in the UK. To keep up with screening announcements and other news from the film, follow their official Facebook page!