Film4 FrightFest, one of the world's best fantasy and horror film festivals, runs for a 12th year from the 25th to the 29th of this month at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square, London, and it promises to be yet another five days filled with blood, guts and mayhem, fuelled by the most passionate of genre fans.
One of the finest aspects of FrightFest is its truly international flavour. Films from across the globe – features and shorts – grace the two screens on offer at the festival and warmly welcome guests who have travelled the world over to experience them. But it wouldn't quite be a British event without a few native films, and one in particular that I'm sure will be met with an enthusiastic response from the audience is PANIC BUTTON, a Welsh independent film directed by Chris Crow that will have its world premiere on the afternoon of Saturday, August 27.
I was fortunate enough to receive a screener from writer/producer David Shillitoe, and now, post-viewing, I am thrilled to be able to share my thoughts with you on what I feel is the best British horror in years. In keeping with one of the main objectives of AICN UK – to give exposure to films produced in the UK on an international platform – it is a great pleasure of mine to introduce you to such a production.
Made for a modest £300,000, PANIC BUTTON explores the dark side of social networking in a way that makes CATFISH look like CATS & DOGS. Revolving around Facebook equivalent all2gethr.com, the film places four characters (two men and two women) on a luxury private plane under the pretence that, courtesy of the social networking website, they have won an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City. Forced to give up their mobile phones for the duration of the flight, they board the plane and, upon take-off, are quickly greeted by the face of a talking alligator on the television monitors, who introduces them to the in-flight entertainment: a game based on their internet habits. Eager to play with the mention of expensive prizes, the contestants agree to partake in the game, which is soon to become an unrelenting nightmare at 30,000 feet.
In each other's company, the alligator subjects the passengers to a series of questions sourced from their years using all2gethr.com, where every link they've ever clicked, message they've ever typed, purchase they've ever made, and video they've ever watched have been stored, many of which are about to come back to haunt them as the game takes a far more personal and twisted turn than they could ever have imagined.
SAW on a Learjet would be a fitting way to summarise PANIC BUTTON, but it packs much more of a punch than any of the sequels. It's conservative with its use of blood, instead delivering the shocks by raising the stakes of survival aboard the plane. As more and more information about the passengers is revealed by the alligator, the disturbing nature of the film is continually amped up. And it's not the improbable predicament that is the most unsettling part, but the specifics of the details that are shared of what the characters have looked at on the web. The things that reveal a certain amount of darkness in those who don't necessarily look particularly shady on the surface. Things that don't just pertain to four characters in a fictional feature-length movie, but most people in real life. This is what makes PANIC BUTTON so smart, multi-layered and brutally honest.
Well-paced and with a tight script, this is a film that is also greatly effective because of how fresh it feels. Only over the last couple of years have we seen horrors and thrillers inspired by the rise of social networking and YouTube. THE SOCIAL NETWORK told a very Hollywood interpretation of the story of Facebook's creation, the appalling CHAIN LETTER splattered gore all over a backdrop of chain e-mails with deadly consequences, and DEATH TUBE spliced webcam voyeurism and viral videos with graphic violence. The film-makers behind PANIC BUTTON have trodden fertile ground with this movie and absolutely succeeded in making a gripping modern horror movie that is very much a product of our times. Just excellent.
So, who's coming to FrightFest?
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