Panic Time (2006) – By Jonathon Pernisek

Panic Time somehow manages to beat Time Chasers in being the most tedious history-surfing movie ever made. This may sound unduly harsh, especially when you consider other failures like A Sound of Thunder and Timeline, but I can’t help but be cynical when it comes to director John Carstarphen’s wholly trivial film. Billed as a “science-fiction comedy,” Panic Time is really nothing more than a radically simple crime story with soft-core porn elements, and you know you’re in trouble when even the soft-core porn elements are lacking.

Trying to recall the details of this film’s plot is like retracing your steps to find the straw wrapper you dropped in McDonald’s. It’s a journey I’m sure neither you or I wish to take, because caring that much would make life a chore. Nonetheless, here’s a diluted, halfhearted attempt at a summary: Elisa Daniel steals a time machine from her place of employment (it’s a big secret government-type place, don’t ya know) and uses it to kill her unfaithful jerk of a husband. It’s the perfect crime, especially since Elisa can use the machine to be in two places at once and create an alibi, but wait, here’s the twist! When she goes back in time she unknowingly takes a friend along with her, and now he knows her dirty secret. Does he care much about Elisa’s murderous act, though? No, not really.

More boring developments occurred, I’m sure, but I drifted off at a certain point. You wouldn’t blame me if you witnessed the anesthesia-laced acting on display in Panic Time, as no one in front of the camera seems to have a lot of experience. This might have been permissible if the movie was actually a comedy, like it was billed, but to my knowledge there wasn’t a single joke in the script. Everything is played straight, and as such the entire film sinks like a lead weight. The script is vanilla, the actors are tepid in their delivery, and the production values are no better than what a bunch of inventive high school students could cobble together.

Carstarphen seems to know his movie is about as interesting as a bowl of cinnamon oatmeal, so in a fruitless attempt to distract his audience he throws in low-rent sex scenes that wouldn’t titillate a senior citizen imprisoned in a nursing home. The love-making is awkward at best, and goes on for so long you start to wonder if someone isn’t doing their job right. Then, because this is a science-fiction film after all, a good portion of time is spent with the actors roaming around a completely 3D environment. Too bad the work put into this locale is for naught, since the animation is no better than a cut scene from an original Playstation game.

You probably think I’m being mean-spirited at this point, and if my comments seem barb-ridden, I can’t really claim otherwise. Panic Time just bored me to tears, and it didn’t seem to care. In fact, after a while it seems to flaunt its terrible nature, slowing time itself to make its sparse 70 minute length go on for a lifetime. I understand this is an independent project, but man, at least try to entertain the viewer, Carstarphen.

If you’d like to find out more about Panic Time you can visit the film’s website at http://www.panictimethemovie.com.