24th Apr2017

‘Panic Button’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Scarlett Alice Johnson, Jack Gordon, Michael Jibson, Ellen Rhys, Joshua Richards | Written by Frazer Lee, John Shackleton, Chris Crow, David Shillitoe | Directed by Chris Crow

panic-button-dvd

Think The Social Network meets Terror at 50,000 Feet as four strangers win an all-expenses paid trip to New York, courtesy of their favourite social-networking site All2gethr.com however this is no ordinary trip… Boarding a private jet to NYC the foursome find themselves trapped at 30,000 feet and forced to play a game – a game whose prize is their lives, and the lives of their loved ones – by a sinister madman known only as Alligator.

The sub-genre that it the techno-horror is much maligned in the horror community, whilst many have tried to cash in on the latest internet craze (or scare), by the time the films hit cinemas or DVD said fad is usually over and all you’re left with is an incredibly dated sub-par horror tale. But thankfully Panic Button escapes this techno-horror cliche unscathed, unlike its cast of characters, by concentrating on that which many people cannot live without today – social networks. Taking inspiration from tales about people sharing too much information online, cyber-bullying and many other sensationalist “the internet is evil” stories that tend to permeate from the mainstream press, Panic Button does what good horror has done for years - use the genre as a “cover” for social commentary. Panic Button however eschews any tabloid-esque commentary on the evils of the internet which tend to be found in many a Hollywood techno-horror, merely commenting on how much information people disseminate on the web – be it social networks, video sites and even email – and how it can be detrimental to us.

What also raises Panic Button above others of its ilk is the script. It’s a fast-paced, pared-down affair that doesn’t treat the audience or the characters like idiots, or pander to genre cliches. And its great to see an aeroplane-set horror that actually feels dangerous and claustrophobic The cast are also uniformally excellent, but special mention must go to former Eastenders  and Pram Face actress Scarlett Alice Johnson as Jo the reformed alcoholic, and Michael Jibson as the sleazy wide-boy Dave, both of whom fit into their roles fantastically.

Much like the Saw franchise, Panic Button makes good use of voice-over, in this case the sinister Alligator played by Joshua Richards, however unlike the aforementioned horror series, this film doesn’t go for over the top gore, instead opting for a sense of foreboding with brief flashes of blood and grue as the characters all try to take each other out to survive. The film also has a real dark humor to it that makes the film all the more fun – there’s none of the Saw franchise self-important grandstanding and self-righteousness here! And like the more famous franchise, Panic Button also has plenty of twists and turns along the way – none more so than the reasoning behind Alligator’s madness and the denouement that actually had me questioning whether the four prize winners (whom Alligator blamed) or Alligator himself was the real trigger for the actions which kicked off this plane ride of death…

Despite being utterly preposterous, Panic Button is a fun, well-directed, well-acted and well-executed techno-horror. The film is out now from Trinity Film (note this is a re-release).

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