Panic Button (2011)

Every time you go online you’re leaving a little trail of breadcrumbs for any Tom, Dick or Hacker to invade your oh so precious privacy. Indelible coding that is on your internet history until the cylons force us to shut down the computers forever or Sarah Connor is finally assassinated by time travelling robots. It will still exist, of course, but I doubt the synthetic overlords will concern themselves with the questionable pornography on your hard drive or the fact that you collect Magic the Gathering trading cards. They’ll just silently judge you along with your tired voiced little conscience.

Faceplace and all of those other Machiavellian social networking tools are out to get you. Post a duckface profile picture, give yourself some quirky interests and you’re given the opportunity to be what you aren’t – pretty, popular, witty and oh so deep. Unfortunately your reality still exists when you log out of there and meanwhile your online haven is gleaning every bit of information about you, first to tailor your advertising and then … to hack into your webcam, steal your bank deets and basically hold you by the cyber throat.

Maybe I am too cynical, but it’s better to be the paranoid hermit in the woods with a cabin full of canned food and guns, than to be the unarmed smart phone user updating their status while zombies eat their friends.

Panic Button is the story of a group of four lucky users selected by the fictional social network All2Gether.com for a once in a lifetime trip to New York aboard a private jet. As they check in they are stripped of their phones and asked to sign a disclaimer to play a quiz that may get them even more luxurious prizes. Cue four ticked boxes without reading the terms and conditions … but who does that right? Turns out that the quiz is less light hearted fun and more wrong answers put your loved one in a body bag (is it just me, or would this make Who Wants to be a Millionaire? so much more entertaining to watch?).

I wasn’t expecting much from this small British film, but I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. Saw meets The Social Network as this budget horror thriller cleverly weaves its slightly farfetched plot around some very contemporary issues concerning the power of the faceless world that lies behind your computer screen, and the fact that that world doesn’t necessarily switch off when you do. Panic Button manages to catch you unawares and impresses with it’s claustrophobic intensity, and the display of some surprisingly good acting from a cast of little known actors. Bloodless, ballsy and with a razor sharp script, it seems to have gotten a bad rap from critics and audiences alike, but I think it deserves more praise than it has received so far. Yes, it is silly, and undoubtedly flawed, but the film doesn’t take itself too seriously and actually has a message about the ripple effect of consequences that your actions may create.

Careless keystrokes cause more than a crashed computer these days, believe me.

And remember, just because you have forgotten about something, doesn’t mean it never happened in the first place.

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