Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Review : Panic Button (2011)


Chris Crow


Scarlett Alice Johnson, Jack Gordon and Michael Jibson

Four strangers win a competition on the popular social-networking website All2Gether, and are offered a trip to New York via private jet. When they get on board, however, a new game is presented to them. One that will show them for who the really are, and in which their lack of participation will have serious consequences.... 

"Facebook - Never has there been a more wretched hive of scum and villainy" - Me

I hadn't heard of PANIC BUTTON until the day I watched it, (yesterday as it happens), and had no idea what it was dealing with, other than the fact that it had something to do with social networking, and was British. Now right away, that combination inspires dread in me. You see, Ive seen CHAT ROOM, and it was ninety odd minutes of my life and my sanity that I can never reclaim. That film tried as hard as can be, to be on the pulse of today's widespread self-whoring media obsession, but managed to be about ten years too late. Has anyone even been in a chat room since the early noughties? I didn't even know the things still existed.

Where that film was filled to the brim with upper class wankers, whom you wanted to eviscerate on sight.....PANIC BUTTON is filled to the brim with upper class wankers who you want to eviscerate on sight, too....at least I did.

Five minutes into this little Brit thriller and I was ready to hit 'stop' and make my way to the nearest pub to drink away the thought that these types exist. Thankfully, I stuck with it. The initial setup will have your ray gun set to 'fuck off', but very soon the plot kicks in, and these four disparate characters begin to take on real personality. As the stories central conceit comes to the fore, we find that these people are entirely human, and we relate. Its not a comfortable relation, but its a damn pertinent one.

Its hard to discuss a film like PANIC BUTTON without giving away the many cool plot twists, or many of the situations that occur during the show. What I will say is that the premise of the film is one in which a light can be shone on many current weaknesses and flaws in our 'self-aggrandisement', based society. And it shines a light very brightly into some pretty dark corners.

We all love the Internet. Its a source of vast information. Yet we all know it can be a place of darkness and depravity just as readily as a beacon of enlightenment and intellect. PANIC BUTTON takes a pretty vicious look at a few aspects of the worldwide web, and one that has grown to massive proportions recently; the social networking world.

Almost all of us are willing victims of these sites. Myspace and Facebook being the two most prominent, which we all know sell on our information to third parties, and which we keep coming back to, like fucking idiots. The human hunger for self worth, and social acceptance knows no bounds, man, and this nefarious form of communication has allowed us free reign on 'who' and 'what 'we want others to perceive us to be. You may be sitting at home eating Pizza and jacking off to Sasha Grey, but on Facebook, your a fucking astronaut. We're slowly becoming the Borg, folks. PANIC BUTTON takes an intelligent look at some aspects of this 'craze'.

Its a fast moving little film for its type. That's to say there is very little by way of action, but its very well written, and works more as a think-piece than an outright Horror movie. Its most definitely Horror, and is often a harrowing experience, but it uses situations and character to convey its uncomfortable truths to the viewer. There is some serious violence, but its never up-front, and its never the focus. The focus here is on 'us lot'. The sheep, the consumers, the media whores.

As the 'game' our four fuck-wits find themselves forced to play begins, it becomes immediately obvious that the protagonist/s is taking a moral stance on the spiritual and moral side-effects the Internet has had on us as a collective. Why these four have been chosen is up in the air, but as he begins to pick apart the online persona's of his victims and reveals the ugliness beneath the surface, things become very interesting. From the benign to the perverse, many subjects are touched on. Early on, we see a video on YouTube of a real murder, and learn that one 'game participaant' sent it to friends with noticeable glee. We then see that persons judgement in the eyes of the others, as the 'game host' questions her relentlessly on why she watched it over and over. Its very gruelling to watch.

The freedom of information act, and the disclosure act, (all but completely wiped out in today's corporate fascist society), are also held up to the light, as the contestants every online move is scrutinized and exposed. Its disturbing to know that this shit goes down all the time, yet the scene dealing with this issue is among the only glimmers of light in the whole show, at least for a fleeting moment. Its hilarious to watch as one guys online searches are shown to reveal a serious hunger for porn, but it rapidly becomes darker as more and more is revealed. Again...real Horror, no violence. Excellent.

When the action does kick in about fifty or so minutes in, the film takes something of a turn in quality. The absorbing study of human nature turns, perhaps necessarily, toward a more recognisable Horror scenario. Its still very gripping, as your on-board with these misfits one hundred percent by this point, (you may not like these fuckers, but theres far more at risk than just their images and lives). As the stakes are upped and the game becomes far more terrifying, the dialogue and ideas take a time-out as things get physical. Its not a bad move, in all truth, as things could perhaps get a little slow for the casual viewer expecting 'SAW on a plane', (some reviewers have NO imagination, man), and it gives the more discerning viewer a chance to breathe.

The cerebral among you can rest easy, though, as PANIC BUTTON's finale leads us back down the dark path and into a thought-provoking and very tragic conclusion. The film opens with 'Based on real events', for a very good reason. If your someone with an understanding of certain behavior in the upcoming generation, its very sad stuff.

PANIC BUTTON is a damn fine film. Its well worth watching for its insights into modern culture, and it sure as hell helps that the whole show is very gripping, disturbing stuff. The cast are all excellent in their roles, and manage to elicit a degree of sympathy in their altogether human natures. For a film with essentially four actors and one set, this thing flies, (no pun intended), and its a ride you really should think about taking. It may reveal some home truths that make for a squirm-inducing watch, but that's the point. Between this and TERRITORIES, Horror looks like its growing its brains back. I'll drink to that.

7.5 Lying Bastards out of 10


  1. This sounds like it could be an awesome movie to check out. I never heard of it before but sound suspenseful & all. So! I'm sold on it!

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