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Very cheap slasher movie that certainly took the wrong cinematic approach
This little-known Canadian slasher was virtually castrated by many movie-fans that believed it was discriminatingly offensive and homophobic. Obviously Robert Bouvier's point was lost somewhere in translation, because City in Panic was attempting to make an admittedly ham-fisted social comment on one of the eighties' biggest discussion points the HIV virus. That's not to say that Bouvier deserves any recognition for this effort. But at least people should be able to judge the film without feeling insulted by the somewhat fragile plot line. Any severe medical condition should certainly be handled with care and consideration by a filmmaker that is attempting to incorporate such delicate topics into a screenplay. That's why I am going to base this review on the feature's strengths and weaknesses as a motion picture and not pass comment on the poorly handled synopsis.
The mood is set in the first few minutes as Bouvier attempts a role reversal on Hitchcock's notorious shower scene. A hulking killer sporting a fedora, dark glasses and typical giallo-like psycho-garb bursts into a bathroom and hacks an unfortunate guy to death with a kitchen knife. Before leaving, the maniac carves the letter 'M' into his back with the aforementioned blade. This becomes the macabre calling card of the maniacal assassin and also the name that he is known by. Next up we meet Dave Miller (David Adamson) a radio talk show host that immediately takes an interest in the madman's motives. As the bodies continue to pile up around the city, Dave decides to set a trap using his popular broadcast as the bait. Eventually, the killer himself phones the show and begins to slaughter people that are close to the presenter. Is Miller next on the death list?
City in Panic started with a protagonist narrative that was vaguely reminiscent of the maverick cop thrillers of the seventies. The seedy depiction of a sleazy town in peril also adds weight to the case that Bouvier was as much a fan of Taxi Driver as he was of Halloween. To be fair there are times when the atmosphere becomes credibly morbid and some of the gruesome murders are brutal if not graphically plausible enough to rival the greatest gore marathons. I was also fairly intrigued by some of the innovative photography that certainly transcended the miniscule budget in places. Glimpses of suspense were credibly juxtaposed with moments of macabre mayhem, which peaked in one scene with the repugnant castration of one unfortunate victim. After having his 'Johnson' chopped off by the killer, the guy is left to spray blood all over the toilet walls like a wayward sprinkler system. The scene itself would have been effectively gruesome if it hadn't been so poorly constructed, which accurately sums up the net result of this feature.
Unfortunately despite being ambitious, Bouveir didn't have the budget or the talent to pull off anything other than mindless mediocrity. The appalling dramatics fail to convince on even the lowest level, which immediately destroys any sense of realism being created. Watch out for the hilariously inept Chiico (Derek Emery), who proves that even those without an ounce of talent can still get screen time in a motion picture. An offering with such a strong topical standing needs professional scripting to make a real impact. Andreas Blackwell's confused screenplay is so bemusingly sketchy that it leaves characters contradicting themselves. The glossy veneer of intellectual dialogue soon becomes easily transparent as nonsensical banter. The fact that City in Panic seems to have been written by morons probably means that it will only ever appeal to morons. At one point the investigator says, "Now I began to accept that the city had on its hands a serial killer". Only problem was that it took him four mutilated corpses to finally work that out. Go figure. The soundtrack seems to have been recorded using a $10 Bontempi keyboard and it does absolutely * nothing * to add to the mood of the feature. Although I disagree that the plot was deliberately homophobic (one of the victims is female and another 's heterosexual), I guess I can understand why some gay people might have thought it was a little mean-spirited towards their sexuality. The majority of the victims were homosexual and they were all sadistically tortured. But I guess in a way it's like accusing Friday the 13th of discrimination against teenagers.
I'm somewhat surprised that so many people have made a fuss about City in Panic. It's far too mindlessly scripted to be offensive and too weakly structured to be controversial. Director Robert Bouvier's biggest mistake was that he clumsily but surely unintentionally exploited one of the most tragic diseases that mankind has ever known. But despite an extremely limp social commentary, this never gets boring and the viscous murders are spaced quite frequently all the way through. As a lowbrow piece of slasher hokum this could've been a passable entry to the cycle. It's just a shame that the filmmakers took the wrong approach
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