Silent Panic

27 Apr

Don’t Open the Trunk!


Kyle Schadt’s nicely composed thriller “Silent Panic” rolls out of the gate with some sharp teeth; there’s a dead body in the trunk of a car and none of three buddies who discover it at the end of a weekend camping trip knows how it got there. Naturally they all freak out about the what to do and because one of the trio’s a recent ex-con, they decide not go to the cops and leave the dead goth girl in the car as they banter about numerous plans to dispose of the body and hopefully rid themselves of its burden. The problem with “Silent Panic” then becomes that Schadt and crew don’t know how take it north from there and what ensures is a maddening meander of ridiculously poor decisions, and not the edgy kind that made “Uncut Gems” (2019) such a burner, but inert middling inanity that makes you want to pull your hair out.

As positioned, “Silent Panic” feels like Schadt envisioned something of a character driven film, but most of the trio lose their edge after the humorous campfire debate over who was Broadway Joe (Joe Montana or Joe Namath?) and if Genesis was better with or without Peter Gabriel. Plus the three really don’t seem like they have much in common. Eagle (Sean Nateghi), the ex-con is the snarling alpha male wannabe of the group while Bobby (Joseph Martinez), remains pretty much a wall flower until we learn he’s got some hard core drug use in his past and may be using currently, and then there’s Dominic (Jay Habre), the mealymouthed aspiring writer who occasionally gives us weak noir-ish voiceovers from his personal journal entries.

The most intriguing element of the plot besides the initial discovery, comes when the car suddenly goes missing—Eagle’s wife Robin (Constance Brenneman) has taken it for a spin and later, Bobby decides to store the corpse in his bathroom. As more and more people learn of the body—“River’s Edge” this is not—the gravity of what’s at stake for the main three begins to sag. Schadt unfortunately becomes far too focused on feeding us his character’s backstories—and they’re not all that interesting. The most unspectacular of which being Dominic’s dull dating life. When his girlfriend signs dumps him, you feel an immense sense of relief for her and barely a teabag of sympathy for him. The film finds its footing again as things come to a climax, but by that time, the macabre and edgy “Shallow Grave”-esque promise has become something slack and near comical, akin in tone to “The Trouble with Harry” or “Weekend at Bernie’s–the difference being those films set out to be dark forays of whimsy.

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