Panic Button - Movie Mogul Films

Panic Button 2011 Poster
Credit: Movie Mogul Films

Low Budget BritHorror Almost Flies

NB: This article contains spoilers!

Panic Button is a low budget (£300, 000) British horror/thriller film directed by Chris Crow and starring Scarlett Johnson released in 2011.

Usually the adjective "British" attached to the noun "film" fills me with a sense of dread. Past experience with British movie output post-1970's tends to fall into the camps of worthy art-house (see Derek Jarman) or twee nonsense (see Richard Curtis), and I say that as a Brit. However, ever-willing to try something different and after reading a handful of glowing reviews for Panic Button I overcame my initial dubiousness and settled down in front of what turned out to be a rather enjoyable if undeniably flawed hour and a half.

Panic Button's main protagonists are four winners of an online competition hosted by the fictional social network which seems to be a futuristic conglomeration of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube  and Google (follow the link to visit the website, a clever piece of viral marketing). Once aboard a plane they think is bound for New York it soon becomes clear that all is not as it seems. They are in fact hostages being forced to take part in a sick game watched over by an evil cartoon alligator (I know that doesn't sound evil but it's a fact). Saw-like manipulation then occurs as the characters discover more disturbing things about each other and are forced to do more and more harrowing things.

The work is identifiable as low-budget from the off, there are no big sets, big names - some of the actors you may recognise from British soaps. We follow our four main protagonists on a single set for almost the whole film; this is essentially a filmed play. The performances of the main actors are satisfactory if not stellar; there is the tendency to lapse into stereotype, although some of the fault for this must be laid at the door of the scriptwriters. The film does however carry you along, certainly for the first half and I think the credit for that must go to Chris Crow's fast-paced and intelligent direction. Crow's only other film credit is for 2010's Devil's Bridge which I have not seen but may seek out based on this film. The central idea of the perils of social networking and the amount of privacy we give away on a daily basis through the Internet is a good one and it is original to see it tackled in a film. That said, despite a good first half, the characters are only roughly drawn in bold strokes and the second half falls into horror cliché all too rapidly. There is a somewhat ill-advised 2001: A Space Odyssey reference when the alligator says "I'm sorry I can't do that for you, Dave" - you really shouldn't draw comparisons to one of the greatest films ever made unless you are making another classic (which this most definitely is not).

This film would have been much better as an out and out thriller, dropping the pretensions at horror completely. It leaves you feeling that a good idea was not fully exploited to its utmost potential. Despite its many faults it's an enjoyable ride (if you can forgive the ending) and shows definite promise from a young British team. I'll be on the lookout for future efforts and it would be nice to see Chris Crow given a Hollywood style budget for his next endeavour. 3-and-a-half/5