Panic Button (UK - BD RB)
Marcus flies to New York but ends up getting tested on his facebook updates
With the ominous message "Inspired by true stories shared via social networks", you'd be forgiven for thinking this one would be a gritty horror story based on some sort of real event between internet friends in an almost modern day urban legend or something. Not the case. Panic Button is the story of four competition winners Jo (Scarlett Alice Johnson - y'know Vicki "was American but then was suddenly cockney' Fowler from Eastenders), Dave (Michael Jibson), Max (Jack Gordon) and Gwen (Elen Rhys) as they win an online competition to take a private jet to New York courtesy of All2gethr.com. On their flight they take part in a game to win prizes and after skipping the terms and conditions the personal questions they are presented with indicate that there are dire consequences to their wrong answers and failure to comply with the game's rules.
Panic Button is a solid British attempt at commenting on our online lives and our behind closed doors affairs. It's slow, well handled build up creates a strong underpinning tension between the "contestants" aboard this plane as this fun game turns awkward and personal and the nastiness ramps up. That said there is an elephant in the room to some degree because Panic Button could easily be described as Saw on a plane without having the budget to really get nasty.
Our host, or "The Alligator" isn't unlike Jigsaw in his approach and of course the contestants' anguish is played upon in much the same way as we've seen before. The highlighting of the characters' online activities really only just about half works and the negative narrow view from each passenger as their flight mates' secrets are revealed seems a bit forced after the first two reveals, as they are all now in the same boat and there doesn't seem to be any level of understanding between the quartet.
With all that said, Panic Button works. The tension could have been played upon with better effect, the characters could have been a little less typical and the nastiness could very well have been nastier but the intentions of putting our online lives under the microscope and twisting them around and throwing them back at us is effective. How the Big Brother diary room-esq tasks play out keeps the excitement going for the duration and despite the low budget the larger scale plot outside the plane makes this movie feel bigger than it is with a pretty dark satisfying pay off at the end.
Panic Button works as a movie for sure but that doesn't stop it from feeling like a TV production. Of course with HD cameras nowadays that means it still looks great but with a rather bland pallete and a not all that exciting look to the film. The few colours there are look noticably good but nothing ever reaches out beyond the low budget limitations. The samey tone throughout only changes when the yellow florescent lighting becomes greener as the movie gets more twisted but other than its lack of diversity the transfer is clean and has some simple textures and detail. Generally speaking though there's nothing to get too excited about here, it merely gets the job done.
Due to the low budget the audio here is what sells the majority of the movie's illusions. The exterior airport setting at the beginning of the film doesn't look like an airport but the flyovers certainly sell the illusion in the rear speakers. The score has a good level of bass and The Alligator's voice feels like it's genuinely above the other characters' dialogue in the front speakers, which was quite effective.
The rear speakers hold a low hum of the plane engines throughout and The Alligator's voice has more weight in the "diary room" headsets adding a nice change of flavour. Like the video presentation, this isn't a track out to impress but works well when it needs to.
Kicking off we get the film's trailer and three teasers. We also get a pretty flat gag reel (02:52 SD) and three outakes and deleted scenes.
The making of featurette (22:03 SD) explains the plans to make a low budget film in an isolated space, limited cast and natural lighting and is a good look at low budget film making with plenty of input from the cast and crew.
The gallery (01:26 SD) is set to the film's score but the real draw of the disc is 'Flight School How to Raise Film Finance' (18:14 HD) which looks at how the film was really able to be made. The script development and how the money was generated from the money men is very detailed and this is a great insight into the challenges of how to get a films made from a business point of view, especially in the UK. Lastly there's an 'also available' section with four other movie trailers.
Panic Button (a title that doesn't really fit the movie) was a good little Brit thriller/horror that plays by the big boy's rules and just about manages to pull it off. There's nothing all that memorable about it but it's an enjoyable ninety minutes that skims across an interesting angle about our social networking habits even if it did feel like it could have been bolder with that angle. The disc is fairly routine in the A/V departments and for indie film makers the extra about financing is well worth a look.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 7th November 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD 5.1 English, PCM 2.0 Stereo English
Extras: Trailers, Making of, Gag Reel, Deleted Scenes, Gallery, Flight School How to raise Film Finance
Easter Egg: No
Director: Chris Crow
Cast: Scarlett Alice Johnson, Jack Gordon, Michael Jibson, Elen Rhys
Genre: Drama, Horror and Thriller
Length: 95 minutes
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