The Trigger Effect 1996 Movie Kyle MacLachlan, Elisabeth Shue and Dermot Mulroney on the road next to their car

The Trigger Effect [1996]

Surprisingly breezy and easygoing, The Trigger Effect is an engaging thriller that will be whatever you want it to be. If you want it to be a deep and psychological study of human behavior, it will be that. If you want it to be just something that will keep your attention for ninety minutes, it will be that too. Directed and written by David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Carlito’s Way, Stir of Echoes), it opens with a scene that will be enough to persuade you to check it out. And I’m not talking about literally the first scene with the wolves dismembering and eating their prey. I’m talking about the cinema scene. One continuous shot, beautifully choreographed, detailing a certain chain of events that will get you in the mood for this underrated near-masterpiece.

This scene alone is worth the ticket, as they say. Mostly because it raises a lot of different questions about our society and its preconceived gender roles. The clash between them and the reality of the world we live in is a perfect primer for a deeper philosophical discussion. Starting with the age-old question what would you do in that situation? And continuing with all the whys and hows you can cram in there. The whole thing may just get a little too personal for some because The Trigger Effect cuts deep. It’s a delightfully subversive movie with a deceptively simple plot. As I already mentioned, it works perfectly well just as an engaging thriller without all the thinking stuff. Set during a hot summer it also features a strong and steamy sexual vibe. I mean, any movie with Elisabeth Shue inevitably does.

After an awkward situation at the cinema, Annie and Matthew arrive home to continue with their routine as young parents. Their baby daughter is running a fever but Matthew is assured by the doctor that it’s nothing serious. He’ll phone the prescription in the morning and everything will be alright. However, during the night there’s a power outage, starting a chain of events that will change everything.

After all this praise, it’s time for some harsh truths. Despite the intense and compelling first hour, The Trigger Effect kind of falls apart in the final third. It’s like they ran out of gas and pushed the car towards the finish line. I have to admit that I was expecting more but considering the origin of the story, it all makes perfect sense. I think you already felt that Twilight Zone vibe and for a good reason because the movie is based on a classic 1959 episode The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street. Another source of inspiration was the first episode of the television show Connections, also titled The Trigger Effect.

The casting was just perfect with Kyle MacLachlan as the average guy, Dermot Mulroney as the masculine, macho type, and gorgeous Elisabeth Shue as the hot wife. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that. They worked with what they had and again were amazing while they had something of substance. And again I go, crying about the final third, I promise I won’t anymore. Let’s focus on something else. I already talked about how this movie might hit a little bit close to home for some. It might expose some perceived inadequacies or flaws. Although I think that it actually emphasizes or justifies some already present notions. For example, I think my husband is not adequate, and here’s proof of that.

This might influence your opinion about the movie as your “old personality” or what I would call a static personality doesn’t want to change. This also happens with the others so it would be interesting to elicit their opinion about the movie. What is their opinion about the characters while keeping in mind that what we don’t like about ourselves usually project onto others. Just to be clear here, I’m Kyle without a doubt and I don’t have any problem with that. That’s a perception from an outside world of a tribal system of values where your incredibly complex and adaptable personality must be pushed into certain boxes. The real answer is that there are no Kyles’ and Dermots’, we are all far too complex for that classification. Or are we?

Director: David Koepp

Writers: James Burke, David Koepp

Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Elisabeth Shue, Dermot Mulroney, Richard T. Jones, Bill Smitrovich, Michael Rooker, Rick Worthy, Tyrone Tann

Fun Facts: Actor Kyle MacLachlan, who played Matthew, originally wanted to play Joe because he wanted to avoid a “juvenile lead”, a role with which he strongly identified.


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