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The Trigger Effect (1996)

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A blackout leaves those affected to consider what is necessary, what is legal, and what is questionable, in order to survive in a predatory environment.



(television series Connections),





Cast overview, first billed only:
... Matthew
... Annie Kay
... Joe
... Raymond
... Steph
... Gary
Tori Kristiansen ... Sarah
Tyra Kristiansen ... Sarah
... Johnny
Edhem Barker ... Trendy German Guy
... Tripping Guy
... Hand Holding Guy
Monica Torres ... Hand Holding Girl
... Double Date Guy
Kerri Vickers ... Double Date Girl


How tenuous is man's hold on civilization when survival becomes an issue? When the lights go out and stay out for several days, suburbanites Matthew and Annie learn the hard way that man is "by nature" a predatory creature. Matthew's long-time friend, Joe, happens by on the second day and a rivalry between the two friends simmers as Annie cares for her sick baby. When rumors of looting spread through the neighborhood, the two men buy a shotgun for protection but Annie throws it in the pool. Later, that same night, Joe hears a prowler downstairs and awakens Matthew. They chase the stranger from the house and out into the street where a neighbor shoots him to death. No longer safe in their own home, they decide to drive to Annie's parents some 500 miles away. Before they reach their destination, more trouble comes their way when they stop to siphon gas from an abandoned car and discover the driver in the back seat... Is this what is meant by "man's inhumanity to man?" Written by Mark Fleetwood <mfleetwo@mail.coin.missouri.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


When Nothing Works, Anything Goes.


Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

30 August 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der große Stromausfall - Eine Stadt im Ausnahmezustand  »

Filming Locations:



Box Office


$8,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,887,791, 1 September 1996

Gross USA:

$3,594,848, 29 September 1996
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Another source of inspiration for this movie came from the first episode of the television series, Connections (1978), hosted by a co-Writer of this movie, James Burke. The episode is called Connections: The Trigger Effect (1978). See more »


When Matthew walks from the hospital to the pharmacist to steal the prescription for the baby, the trolley camera and the guy pulling it are reflected in the shop window. See more »


Joe: The Martians have landed. They want our women.
See more »


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Written by Wesley Willis, Dave Nooks, Pat Barnard, Brandon Murphy (as Brendan Murphy) & Dale Meiners
Performed by The Wesley Willis Fiasco (as Wesley Willis Fiasco)
Courtesy of Urban Legends Records
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User Reviews

The effect it may have on audiences who may in fact like it
27 December 2010 | by See all my reviews

The Trigger Effect is a movie I'm not proud to like, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't. It wasn't a fantastic thriller, but it shouldn't get the beating it's getting on IMDb, Netflix, and every other review site. The acting isn't phenomenal, the plot isn't much, but the events in the film keep you at least interesting and hoping for the best. In the long run, The Trigger Effect is not the worst thing to come out of movies ever.

Sometimes, I believe, when a movie is panned by critics and moviegoers, a film gets bad reviews by everyone whether they like it or not. I looked on the IMDb Bottom 100 before writing this review, and thought, there's got to be one person out there that likes some of these films. I scanned about twenty, and the twenty I picked had no review above two out of ten. My point; not everyone can hate a movie. It can't be so bad no one likes it. This is kind of how I feel with this film and the 1996 comedy Bio-Dome which I found to be an entertaining film. The only difference with The Trigger Effect is I could find someone who liked Bio-Dome. I have yet to find someone that (honestly) admits they like The Trigger Effect.

The film has no real plot. It takes place in Southern California where our two protagonists reside. Matt (Kyle MacLachlan) and Annie (Elizabeth Shue) return home from the movies to find their infant screaming with an ear ache. Matt calls a doctor who promises to have a prescription filled by morning. In the middle of the night, the neighbors wake to find a the town has blacked out. Matt arrives at the pharmacy to find out the doctor didn't call in the prescription, so he resorts to stealing the medicine for the baby.

Matt's brother Joe (Dermot Mulroney) arrives at the house to convince the couple to buy a gun for security since the blackout is causing very strange behavior amongst the town. When purchasing the gun, the four come to the consensus that they must take a trip to wife's parent's house. Soon enough, all hell breaks loose.

The film is no masterpiece, but it shouldn't get the beating it is taking on the web now. It's a very least intriguing. You want to know what happens to these innocent people. You want to follow them through this journey through hell. As most of these events occur, they trigger another thing to happen (obviously why the film's title is what it is). Clearly the person behind this idea wanted no light at the end of the tunnel. Just like the film Where the Heart Is or The Quiet, they wanted no light at the end of the tunnel.

Upon it's release, it grossed a mere $1,887,791, and ranked 12th at the Box Office. It came up very short compared to it's $8,000,000 budget. It went on to gross around $3,000,000 in it's entirety, and lead on to never being spoken about again. While I think in no means it should be praised, it should at least be recognized for doing the job it did. It didn't want to be bad, but then again no movie does. It just showed it's limitations on screen, and nothing more. It doesn't want to be anything more than it's budget allows. It's a good thing and a bad thing simultaneously.

Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Elisabeth Shue, and Dermot Mulroney. Directed by: David Koepp.

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