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Friday 3 October 2014

Panic, Fear (2011)

Director: John Francis Conway
Stars: Saad Nassim, Honor L Nezzo and Bryce Thurston
This film was an official selection at Phoenix FearCon IV in Tempe in 2011. Here's an index to my reviews of 2011 films.
This short carries the on screen title of Panic, Fear, but IMDb lists it as Panic, Fear: Part One, which makes a little more sense because, like Stay, this feels less like a film and more like the beginning of one that we don't get to see because the end credits roll first. In fact, the two films worked well as a pair on screen, as they really aim to do the same thing: set a scene and let it unfold with the suspense paramount, the style worthy of note and the story so far down the list of priorities that it might as well not have been included at all. They both achieve this through use of the standard horror trope of a young lady in danger. Only the location is notably different: in Stay, she's in the middle of nowhere, but in Panic, Fear she's at home, as neatly emphasised by a tattoo on her foot. Initially she's in bed with her husband, but she gets up, visits the bathroom, pours herself some water from the fridge. Of course, the difference is that she's supposed to feel safe here, unlike the lady in Stay who wasn't in the back of that secluded car to feel safe.
The story here is so irrelevant that I've just told you half of it and the other half is that we then discover a stranger in the house with her. He's a faceless killer, as tends to be the case, hidden behind some sort of black bondage mask. He does have a presence to him, though he was far more ominous when he showed up in character for the film's screening at Phoenix FearCon IV and stood guard in the entryway as we filed in for each screening. Of course, we have no idea who he is, where he came from or why he's doing what he's doing; all we know is that he's doing it, which isn't a heck of a lot of background for us to connect to. Then again, we don't know much more about his victims. The young lady has a few tattoos, but otherwise is unworthy of note if her surroundings are anything to go by. If there's anything interesting in her fridge, on her bookshelf or anywhere else in her house, we don't get to see it. She doesn't have a big screen TV but she has sweet stuff under glass on her kitchen counter. That doesn't give us much to go on.

And so, we really don't care about either killer or victim, beyond the fact that the latter clearly has much nicer legs. What we therefore focus on is the way the film was put together, something that I appreciated more consistently here than I did with the last film that I reviewed from director John Francis Conway, one which played the previous FearCon, called the Phoenix Fear Film Festival in 2010. That was Blockhead, in many ways a similar but less successful picture, even though it won the award for best short. This does a lot of the good stuff that that one did, with its appropriate setting, memorable lighting and efficient gore effects. Perhaps it addresses most of its problems, not least by excising the moronic characters, needless dialogue and overly cool setups. Simplifying everything means that it runs shorter and smoother and the camera dollies neatly through the rooms to ensure that it stays that way. It does everything it needs to do except to actually tell a story; maybe that will eventually show up in the currently nonexistent Part Two.

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