The Trigger Effect


I missed the memo about The Trigger Effect.

Yesterday, there was a widespread power outage that affected a big chunk of the southwest.  Mercifully, it seems like the lights are now back on, but whenever I hear about a blackout, I get a little shiver thinking about The Trigger Effect.  Like Scorchers, The Trigger Effect is a really good movie that you’ve probably never seen.  (And you probably never will…it’s not on Netflix, WTF?)

The Trigger Effect tells the story of the fairly quick descent into chaos that ensues once the lights go out and stay out.  While there are some sensational plot twists that ramp up the tension, there are also banal crises which lead to all sorts of desperate times and desperate measures.  Like when one of our protagonists, as played by Kyle MacLachlan, is just trying to get the pediatric panacea which is liquid amoxicillin (aka, “the pink stuff”) for his baby daughter, who is miserable with an ear ache.  But because the power’s out, the pharmacist can’t access the prescription in the computer or conduct any transactions.  But our protagonist can see that the pink stuff is right there, it’s on the shelf!  Why can’t the pharmacist just give it to him for Pete’s sake?  For the love of God, his baby is sick!

And it just gets crazier from there.  No phones.  No computers.  No ATMs.  No functional gas pumps.  Looting, violence and mayhem.  And a very frazzled but MILF-y Elisabeth Shue….

Of course, the The Trigger Effect represents a crazy worst case scenario of what might happen during an extended power outage.  For fun, it throws in some wacky coincidences of strangers whose lives intersect in ways that initially seem unpleasant, but insignificant, but later turn out to be a big deal.  As movies go, it really is entertaining.  If you come across it in a bargain bin somewhere, snatch it up.

Interestingly, the term “the trigger effect” seems to have roots in geology, where it has this definition:

When rock is subjected to increasing stresses there comes a time when it is on the point of failure. In some circumstances it may remain at that point for a considerable time. Any small external influence, such as a seismic wave, may then be sufficient to precipitate the failure. This is known as the trigger effect.

I’m not sure if the filmmaker had this definition in mind when choosing the title, but it’s interesting to ponder whether we, as crazy modern people, might be walking around at “the point of failure” all the time.  What are the “seismic waves” that might turn a little crack into a chasm? 

Happily, my friends in San Diego report that after recovering from the initial irritation of being without power, they were totally OK.  Forced to unplug, they enjoyed candle light and star light.  Instead of watching TV or fooling around on a computer, they talked to the precious people they happen to live with.  They still wanted the power to come on before all the food in the fridge spoiled, but as evenings go, it apparently wasn’t too bad. 

Maybe it’s a weird sort of irony that having the convenience of electricity is the very thing that whips us into a frenzy of busy-ness that sometimes has us at our breaking points.  Taking it a way, just for a little while, might bring us back from the brink just a bit.  In any event, everything looks better by candle light, don’t you think? 

Memo received.

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