Panic (1982)

What happens when you team a pair of Italian trash cinema vets like David Warbeck (The Ark of the Sun God, Karate Rock) and Janet Agren (Hands of Steel, Karate Warrior) with director Tonino Ricci, a man with his own sterling Italian schlock resume of which Rush and A Man Called Rage are just a few of the highlights, and turn the whole lot of them loose with a camera crew in Britain? Panic! Pure monster prowling in the sewers panic! Why, after seeing this movie, I’ll never feel safe hanging around in my local sewers ever again!

But the monster (really it’s just Dr. Parks, a scientist with the worst case of MRSA ever!) isn’t just jockeying for hideout space down there with C.H.U.D.s and giant alligators! He’s also surfacing to kill! And he has an unerring instinct for zeroing in naked and horny chicks!

First he locates a couple banging each other in their car during the afternoon and kills both of them just like any good repressed slasher would do. Later, he demonstrates his knowledge of classic horror when he tracks down a gal who is taking a shower. It’s even more horrifying than the one featured in Psycho! The hairy armpits are the scariest thing in the whole movie! Finally, when rampaging at the local cinema and causing a stampede, he kills the one woman there who was being felt up by her boyfriend. But what is the government doing to help the good citizens of Newton, England so they can go back to sexing each other without fear for their safety (other than the occasional STD)?

Well, they’re going to kill everyone of course! At least everyone in town that the monster doesn’t kill first. Look, what is the death of a thousand or so people compared to the death of millions if the contagion gets loose? This is why we elect only the very best people to run things – so that they can make the tough decisions. Who are we to argue if they decide its in our best interests to drop a buttload of kill gas on us if it will help cover up the covert germ warfare research they were doing in town?

At 5:00 a.m. the next morning, if the monster isn’t stopped, the city gets it! But there is one last ditch hope! Captain Kirk! No, not THAT Captain Kirk, you Starfleet drop out!  I mean the Captain Kirk played by David Warbeck. And after stumbling around the sewers for a while, once Warbeck runs into the monster, he is setting his gun-shaped fire extinguisher full of poison gas not on stun, but to FUBAR!

And that’s pretty much the movie unfortunately. Panic is one of those films that you keep waiting for something to happen beyond what was set up in the opening ten minutes. Experiment gone wrong. Doctor turned into monster. Warbeck races clock to find monster before government destroys city. Nothing else happens. Nothing unexpected occurs. No effort is made to add anything to the story beyond its rudimentary chase structure. Kirk has no plan beyond the vague “I’ll find him somehow and then kill him” which just magically works out for no real reason.

Warbeck is sort of teamed up with Agren who was Parks’ assistant. She wants to try and give Parks the antidote, but the monster attacks Kirk instead and ends up with a fatal face full of smoke for his efforts. Her character exists solely for Kirk to clumsily flirt with when he’s not just being dismissive of her. Usually Warbeck is about the only asset in a movie like this, but here, the dialogue he’s given just make him sound a prick making you wonder why you should care about any of it.

Worse yet, the entire premise of the movie was never explained in a fashion that made any sense. Parks is infected with something causing him to look like the Toxic Avenger. And he is so contagious that if he isn’t killed in the next day or so, an entire town will be murdered. But he’s been running around breathing on people and attacking them when he isn’t killing them. And no one else got sick. And how can they call off the airstrike just because Parks is dead? They don’t know if he infected anyone else or not, right?

A poorly thought out and dully executed monster-on-the-loose picture whose monster looks like he’s about to stroke out in the last act when he’s huffing and puffing and having trouble moving around in the sewers and can barely even climb up a ladder. Sometimes you can’t help but feel pity for the monsters, like we do with the Frankenstein monster and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Parks has no personality and no backstory to justify audience sympathy, so he just comes off as a pathetic psycho, but a lot of that could be because it looks an elephant took a dump on his face.

Warbeck, Agren and Ricci all made several entertaining exploitation films in their careers (see Warbeck’s Hunters of the Golden Cobra for example which even came out the same year as Panic), but this film really has nothing going for it and can’t even muster enough energy to be an enjoyably bad trip into the sewers. You won’t feel any of the titular panic, but by the time it ends, you’ll be as gassed by all of it as the monster was.

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