FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Feb 15, 2024

Chilling Classics Cthursday: PANIC (1982)

It's been a while since I've called a movie a "Tiffany" around these parts, but it's so very on point for today's Chilling Classic that I'm busting the term out again. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the musical stylings of the artist Tiffany, a Tiffany movie is one that she could have been singing about/to in her 1987 hit song "Could've Been." To wit:

When I think about

What could've been

It makes me want to cry


Could've been so beautiful

Could've been so right

You can't hold what could've been

On a cold and lonely night

No-uh-oh, no-uh-oh, oh-oh

That last line was me weeping as I put Disk 7 back in its cardboard sleeve, then put the cardboard sleeve back in its cardboard box. No-uh-oh, no-uh-oh, oh-oh I cried, because Tonino Ricci's Panic (aka Bakterion) sounded so good on that cardboard sleeve, despite the typo that says "a deadly variety" instead of "a deadly virus." (Never change, Mill Creek.) To wit again:

It's an early 80s Italian movie starring Fulci veterans David Warbeck (The Beyond) and Janet Agren (City of the Living Dead). A scientist is exposed to a deadly variety a deadly virus and then wreaks havoc around a London suburb, killing people and drinking all their blood. To contain the contagion, the government decides to employ "Plan Q" and drop a bomb on said suburb.

It sounds awesome and I was so pumped for it. Things started off pretty great, when a horny young couple were killed right before they were gonna DO IT in a car, as is the fate of all horror movie horny young couples about to DO IT in cars.

My future with Panic only got brighter in early scenes at the chemical company, which was called ChemiCALE. We are told that two living beings were missing from the lab after the accident with the "indestructible virus" -- Professor Adams, who was working on said virus, and a guinea pig. But not just any guinea pig, mind you: this infected guinea pig, the ChemiCALE scientists said, could have grown to the size of a dog, or even a lion.

Now, this was not an explicit promise that I would see a lion-sized guinea pig at some point, but it established the promise of a dog-or-lion-sized guinea being out there somewhere. A fine point to be sure, but one I clung to all throughout Panic. Finally they found the guinea pig, I guess, in a sewer, and I imagine that you can imagine my disappointment:

It brought to mind my 8th grade Algebra teacher, who spent weeks psyching us up for an end-of-year game day, for which one of the prizes would be "a giant Hershey bar." He would really stress the "giant" in "giant Hershey bar," and talked it up as theee incentive for us to try to whip each other's ass in Algebra showdowns. When the day finally arrived and he finally took the "giant Hershey bar" out of his briefcase, it was snack-sized. This was his joke! But as you see, the wounds from that joke and that day never truly healed, and they may never, for Panic's "dog-or-lion-sized guinea pig" tore them open anew. 


I know I started this off by calling Panic a Tiffany, and I know in my heart that it's true. It has so much going for it, and yet it just...wasn't good. I know that's a basic-ass criticism, but it's true. It's plodding. Despite the countdown-to-bombing conceit, there's no urgency or tension to any of it. Warbeck's Captain Kirk (yes, his name is Captain Kirk) boldly goes into the sewers in search of Professor Adams, but he just sort of strolls even when the deadline is nigh. The whole thing ends with the lamest, most anticlimactic final shot you could possibly imagine, and to keep with the "urgent thing handled in a lackadaisical manner" theme Ricci employs, the half-assed 4th wall-breaking "warning" to the audience comes after the credits have completely rolled.

And yet! I already feel like I'm Eternal Sunshine-ing myself, forgetting and/or ignoring how disappointing Panic was. It's got so much going for it, how could it be a disappointment? 

Like all the dubbed voice acting, which is a cornucopia of every British accent you can imagine, from the stereotypically snooty guy to women who sound like Hyacinth Bucket to random Cockney folk to everyone in between. Or maybe when Janet Agren, Scientist, says "I just have to find out if this is a contagious virus!" and then starts click-clacking on a computer keyboard.

There's a scene in a movie theatre where the mutated Professor Adams rips through the screen to go on the attack; I love a movie theatre scene in my horror! And speaking of Professor Adams, when we finally get a good look at him, we can see that he resembles those raspberry gummy candies.

And then, of course, let's not forget the dog-or-lion-sized guinea pig, which--hey wait, that was the biggest let-down in this movie! I am going to remember Panic for what it was (a disappointment), not what I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be beautiful and so right--and it could've been--but it was not. Not at all. No-uh-oh, no-uh-oh, oh-oh. 


Steve K said...

The letdown sounds like my first (and only) trip to Plymouth Rock.

Stacie Ponder said...

I can't believe that as a New Englander who went on countless field trips during school, I've never been to Plymouth Rock. The disappointment it causes is legendary!

Rochester Swift said...

Off topic: I assume you've seen Color Out of space (2019) but it really wouldn't fit into the theme(s) of your blog unless you want to get back onto a Lovecraft streak... If you haven't, treat yourself. The Cheesecake: Joely Richardson is still delicious, and Elliot Knight is a smoking hot young dude from the UK as the audience stand-in observer of the Weirdness. Also, Richard Stanley's Dust Devil (1992) doesn't get the love it deserves either, since it has Zakes Mokae from The Serpent and the Rainbow does a swell job as the cop protagonist, and Robert John Burke makes a smoking hot sexy villain.

Verdant Earl said...

I am so happy you are still doing this. I came her to find Icy Spicy Leoncie. She is 71 now!

Stacie Ponder said...

Verdant Earl!! *takes drag on cigarette* I haven't heard that name in years...

Thanks for stopping by! ESPECIALLY as you were in search of the TRUE Queen of Pop Music, who may be 71 (!!!) in mortal years, but of course such numbers have no meaning for a celestial being such as she.

Also that song is going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the day, so thank you (??)

Verdant Earl said...

I am going to take five days and read every post since you wrote since I stopped blogging. I may comment...a lot.

matango said...

Plymouth Rock was hilarious to me as a kid. I was expecting something like the big offshore rocks like you see in Goonies, not something smaller than a Yugo.

Stacie Ponder said...

It's a little like me seeing Niagara Falls for the first time, even though I was an adult. Approaching from the US side, I was expecting to walk down some woodsy trail and have a spectacular view, surrounded by natural beauty. Instead, it was like being in Dollar Store Las Vegas with a squint-and-you'll-see-it view. Such a disappointment! But I did go to the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, so.

matango said...

In the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum were you able to avoid doing a Jack Palance impression?

Stacie Ponder said...

You know the answer to that already!

I even did push-ups.

matango said...

I believe it.