Three men are packing up their gear after a relaxing camping trip. They open the trunk of their car to find the body of a dead woman. Instead of reporting this to the police, they decide to keep the body. This leads to a series of coincidences, comedic exchanges, and a former drug dealer that takes care of birds. It sounds like 2019’s Silent Panic is a fun dark comedy. Sadly, the interesting premise never gets past being just that.
The story answers the most obvious question immediately. One of the men was wrongly imprisoned. Understandably, he has no faith in the law. Both of his friends are very reluctant and it takes plenty of convincing for them to not call the police. It is very contrived, but it does move the plot along smoothly.
Writer-director Kyle Schadt is unable to keep the story compelling after the opening, however. The uneven plot is unsure whether to be a thriller or a character study. The problem is the characters are not very interesting. The insights audiences are given into their lives are slow and uninteresting. Many times it seems like Schadt is more interested in padding out the movie’s runtime.
The mystery itself is basically ignored. When Silent Panic does deal with the dead body, it is treated comically. The plan to get rid of the car seems like it would lead to more problems with the authorities than just calling them initially would have. A long exchange in a parking lot goes on like a Saturday Night Live sketch that has worn out its welcome. A conversation late in the movie sees one character essentially confess to his girlfriend what is going on. As is normal for every character in the film, she fails to notice the obvious.
The dialogue is awful. The opening includes a conversation about which version of Genesis is better (the go to topic for every music “expert”). This is followed by a riveting back and forth on why the doughy treats are called donut holes. Unfortunately, these are the only times the writing show any flashes of humor. From there it devolves from trying to be cool to not seeming to try at all.
The music during the opening credits is laughable. It sounds like a parody from The Simpsons or a 1990’s music video. Thankfully, things get better. The soundtrack is never great, but it does fit the mood Silent Panic is trying to convey. Heavy synth is featured during the moments involving the corpse. The music takes on a less subtle tone during moments of introspection. (Yes, this movie is so poorly constructed that mediocre looks great.)
Joseph Martinez does a great job as Bobby. Even when the dialogue fails the character, the character has strong moments. His problems are subtly foreshadowed and his is the only character that shows development – even if it is minuscule.
Silent Panic is not a bad movie. The premise is an interesting one and the idea of focusing on the characters is unique. Unfortunately, the writing and pacing are unable to deliver on the promise.