Panic Button, 2011.
Directed by Chris Crow.
Starring Scarlett Alice Johnson, Jack Gordon, Michael Jibson, Elen Rhys and Joshua Richards.
A group of four win a chartered flight to New York via a social networking site, but the competition is not what it seems and neither are the competition winners.
The paranoia around social networking has started to arise recently. Rather then just view sites like Facebook and MySpace as a way of keeping in contact with old friends, there’s the fear that people can be subtly controlled by them. After all, who really reads the terms and conditions right down to the bottom? Thought not. Just because some of your Facebook profile is set to private, does not make it entirely safe. In the low-budget horror, Panic Button, every technophobe’s fear springs from the woodwork.
It starts innocently enough. Four users of the social site All2gether.com are brought together after winning a competition on the site. Their prize is an all expenses paid trip to New York on a private chartered jet. The catch? No mobile phones are allowed and they have to answer the probing questions of a mysterious “alligator” (Joshua Richards) talking on the monitors. From these set of questions we learn that the passengers are not who they appear to be at first. The single mother (Scarlett Alice Johnson) is a recovering alcoholic, the youngest of the four (Jack Gordon) has an embarrassing ailment, the man’s man (Michael Jibson) is a poor loser and a cheat, and the sweet Welsh girl (Elen Rhys) used to have an eating disorder.
Of course, all of this information is on their All2gethernow.com profiles. While probing such information is sinister anyway, the fact that, just like Facebook, the information can be accessed by anyone, just shows how your privacy can be compromised. The “alligator” continues setting small challenges and punishes any wrong behaviour with a forfeit. The forfeit in question involves the slaying of anyone on their friends list. It’s like a large scale Russian Roulette with someone else face staring down the barrel.
Even though the entire film takes place on the jet, it barely gets boring. As well as the tension mounting as high as the altitude, there are some fantastically timed twists. As the story progresses, it just continues getting darker and slightly bleak as the “alligator” reveals the true nature of the competition. The characters go from chirpy and affable to becoming distrusting and, in some cases, violent. And all because they trusted a social networking website with all of their private information.
Panic Button is one of the best contemporary low-budget horrors you’ll see. A simple idea that is very well executed in every way possible and a very chilling message to all its viewers. Just remember to read those terms and conditions before clicking accept.
Will Preston is a freelance writer from Portsmouth. He writes for various blogs (including his own website) and makes short films.