Saturday, May 5, 2012

In short: Pánico (1966)

This omnibus film contains three unconnected stories.

"Pánico" finds a young woman fleeing through the woods. She is chased by a screeching older woman with a knife, and has strange, metaphorical encounters with three men and a baby doll. Holy Eisenstein, Batman!

"Soledad" concerns two men in a jungle somewhere in South or Central America, burying a woman who died from Yellow Fever and then attempting to make their way to the next larger settlement. Clearly, there's enough tension between the men to induce melodramatic declarations towards the sky, murder, and perhaps vengeance from beyond the grave.

The final story, "Angustia", tells of the problems a scientist gets into when he ignores some obvious safety rules in his lab while developing a new anaesthetic. Turns out letting your pet cat run free in your lab and having an open cup of coffee on your laboratory table can lead to trouble like…a premature burial.

The Mexican movie Pánico was directed by experienced worker in every genre Julián Soler, and finds the veteran in a somewhat experimental mood. All three of the film's episode are trying to enhance their rather simple plots through heavy use of meaningful montage, the bluntest visual metaphors imaginable, and every camera or direction trick that was en vogue and cheap in 1966.

For the first two episodes, Soler's attempts to intensify his stories through style succeeds for the most part. "Pánico" (the episode) probably makes the best use of the semi-pop art elements making up Soler's visual language here; while the metaphors are much too blunt for my tastes, the segment works well as an attempt to put a high-strung state of mind into pictures.

The film's second segment may be even more melodramatic, featuring an astonishing amount of unnecessary, yet stylish, flashbacks that in the end segue into a very poe-esque (possible) vengeance from the grave. If you can get used to the - again - high-strung impression the story's characters and the surrounding filmic techniques make, you might find the segment quite effective.

The third and final segment is clearly the weakest one. It gives more than a little nod towards Poe, too, but does nothing much of interest with the whole premature burial aspect. This is supposed to be the mandatory funny segment of the film, but really isn't a great moment in humour at all. Neither the acting nor the writing are strong enough to elevate this part of Pánico above the level of a time filler and end the omnibus film on something of a sour note.

Still, the first two episodes are stylistically interesting enough - unless one can't stomach the melodramatics - to make Pánico worth watching. It may not be a masterpiece of Mexican horror, but it does try its hardest not to be bland.


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