Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Trigger Effect (1996)

David Koepp, the wünderkind of Hollywood scripts also wanted get a breakthrough as a director. With Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and an indie-budget of eight million dollars he threw himself into The Trigger Effect. It didn't went well. It opened to terrible reviews and the total gross landed on a little bit over three million. I remember this at the time and the movie was quickly buried and Koepp went forward and directed the excellent Stir of Echoes a few years later. One of the best ghost stories to come out from Hollywood in a long time. Maybe the audience and critics expected something else from the writer of Jurassic Park and Mission: Impossible, because The Trigger Effect isn't even half as bad at some people out there claim. It would say it's quite good.

Excellent actors Kyle MacLachlan and Elisabeth Shue plays Matthew and Annie, a middle-class couple living in a decent suburb with their baby. One evening there's a blackout - and soon they understand that it's not only the electricity, but also the telephones and every other kind of communication! An old friend of them, Joe (Dermot Mulroney), arrives the day after and tries to take control over the household. He's the though guy compared to Matthew's very careful character. No one knows anything about what's happen and slowly society around them cracks - they decided to take the care and drive to some relatives, but that needs more gasoline, weapons and discipline not to get in trouble...

Maybe inspired by the Los Angeles riots in 1992, Koepp obviously wants to analyze why we react in a certain way when society breaks down. With seeing everything from the eyes of Matthew, a coward - an careful person, it's an interested road down chaos we takes together with Koepp. Matthew tackles both his prejudices against afro-americans, the jealousy he feels because of the past relationship Annie and Joe had and how it is to not being able to get medicine for the baby. You know, what the fuck can you do when no one wants to help you? Suddenly this safe, boring, little family is in the same seat like millions of other peoples in the world - a rude awakening.

The Trigger Effect is a fine movie, make no mistake. But it never goes THAT far, it never becomes extreme or out of the ordinary. Maybe it's a realistic viewpoint, but for a dramatic story like this more "action" could have been a good idea. But when you think of it, it's damn interesting how the polices pretend that there's nothing wrong "out there" (compared with the suburb) and that we never understand why or who the black-out could occur. During a sweaty and dramatic stand-off out in the countryside we see two nuclear facilities in the background, but that's the only time there's some clue what has happen - and still, that won't explain everything.

Maybe Koepp tried to stay realistic, tried to focus on the family and nothing at all around them. But sometimes we need to see the action to understand the reaction. On the other hand, we know as little as the family - but it doesn't work to 100 %.

This is an underrated and good directional feature debut of David Koepp. Give it a new chance (which is easy, it's just been released on DVD in Sweden from the good folks at Njuta Films) or at least watch it for a supporting part from the always brilliant Michael Rooker as a desperate fucked-up man with a broken fucked-up car. 


Anonymous said...

Interesting...never heard about this one before.

Rooker....he´s good...have you seen Brown's Requiem (1998)?

Check out Five (1951)...if you haven´t seen it.

David Koepp co-wrote Apartment Zero (1988), a film I think you should check out.

Ninja Dixon said...

Always wanted to see Five! One day!
Apartment Zero, actually I thought I've reviewed it - but not. Better watch it again and write something about it. I remember it to be excellent!

Anonymous said...

Ninja: is brilliant...and I had never heard about before...until a month ago.

See Brown's Requiem (1998) also...very flawed I think you´ll like it.