The film's opening sequence takes the audience inside a mall, where a series of minor slights among strangers leads to an inexorable tension. Eventually, the focus settles on the main characters of The Trigger Effect, Matthew (Kyle MacLachlan) and his wife Annie (Elisabeth Shue). When a massive power failure hits their calm suburban California town, things begin to break down. Unable to fill a prescription for their sick baby because the phones and computers are out, Matthew tries to reason with the pharmacist, who responds testily. Desperation drives him to sneak behind the counter when the pharmacist isn't looking and steal the antibiotic the baby needs. Annie is strangely titillated when she hears about it. Later that day, their friend Joe (Dermot Mulroney) shows up at their house. Joe is a much more rugged individual than Matthew. While his presence during the crisis is welcome, Matthew resents Joe, while Annie feels drawn to him. Joe convinces Matthew to buy a gun, over Annie's objections. Joe's presence heightens the problems of their already struggling marriage. After a night of drinking and triangular tension, a burglar breaks into their home, leading to a fatal shooting. The next morning, the fearful couple, short on cash and gasoline, decide to travel to their in-laws until the power comes back on, and Joe agrees to go along. But the trip turns harrowing when they meet a desperate fellow traveler (Michael Rooker) on the road. Screenwriter David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Spider-Man) made his feature directorial debut with The Trigger Effect. The premise for the film was inspired by the BBC documentary series Connections.