Ever so often, the movies come up with a film so unusual, so bizarrely hilarious and confidently itself, that you are willing to forgive it's flaws. And after a drought season of horrible horrible movies, A Town Called Panic was a breath of fresh air.
How the filmmakers were able to make this movie only with a collection of plastic toys so enjoyable to watch and painstakingly funny is beyond me. Panic was made on a zero budget mind you, and it looks fantastic.
Panic is a Belgian film that takes place in a small village and centers around three housemates, Horse, Indian and Cowboy. It's Horse's birthday and Indian and cowboy come up with a brilliant plan to give him a homemade barbecue but the plan backfires when they mistakenly order 50 million bricks which destroys their home. This sets off a chain of really weird events ranging from masochistic scientists to dishonest merpeople to a snowball launching penguin and a surprisingly durable tractor.
And while I really do love Panic for it's wackiness, there is no denying that this film is dumb as hell. If a 10 year old girl with attention deficiency had a camera and some plastic toys and she started making stop-motion with them, that's pretty much how this film would have turned out. A Town Called Panic simply revels in it's simplicity and makes no apologies for it's whimsically absurd method of storytelling.
The film is only 1 hour 15 minutes long, but hell do they do lotso crazy shit with it. And thank God it's only that short, because the film keeps you spinning in a sense of mismatched manic from start to finish that fatigue does start to set in pass the hour mark. But there was not a moment in the film where I thought, "Now that's just dumb."
And though some have complained that the stop-motion animation of Panic is incredibly lazy, I for one disagree. Sure, it is much more boldly artificial and crude compared to stop-motion gems like Fantastic Mr. Fox and Wallace & Gromit, I think the filmmakers did it intentionally to make the movements of the characters closely resemble the movements of toys in a child's hand during playtime. A Town Called Panic could easily have been one of our childhood bizzarro fantasy stories we played around with our toys.
And I gotta give props to the voice actors of the film. Stéphane Aubier and Bruce Ellison in particular who voiced Cowboy and Indian. Now the film is in French and I have no idea what the fuck they're saying. However, Aubier and Ellison's comic timing and impeccable silly voices really didn't need a translation to have me bawling over in laughter.
A Town Called Panic is yet another rare gem, a film that will never get the recognition it deserves. But for the few people who do get the honor of watching the film, will be sitting slack-jawed at how wacky this little film is.