City in Panic (1986)

Rating: C+

Dir: Robert Bouvier
Star: David Adamson, Leeann Nestegard, Ed Chester, Peter Roberts
a.k.a. 13

The print I saw was shorn entirely of cast and credits, and the title radically changed. It conceals a rare-ish Canadian slasher made in 1986, that initially strikes out, with an attempt to recreate the Psycho shower-scene – a wild reach for any director – but picks up in the middle to become somewhat interesting, before descending into the usual slasher nonsense at the end. A serial killer terrorises the city, leaving victims with an ‘M’ carved into them – yes, as well as Hitchcock, they want to invite Fritz Lang comparisons. Late-night radio host Dave Miller (Adamson) is asked to help catch the murderer, by provoking the psycho to call his show. However, as events unfold, the dead bodies get closer to home and it seems that, for his taunts, Miller may become the next target.

Almost a period-piece, this, from back when AIDS – which plays a pivotal role in the plot – was a boogeyman, and the film doesn’t exactly treat it, or the gay community, with much sympathy. It is surprisingly thought-provoking about the role of the media in such cases: how do you inform the public, without causing panic or being crassly exploitative for ratings purposes? Just don’t be fooled. It’s a casual aside, compared to the killings which are the film’s main purpose; the most memorable, a security guard who opts to engage in a spot of glory-holing, and pays a heavy price. It’s all gleefully mean-spirited, but the poor acting derails much of the impact, and you’ll probably guess the killer before half-way. However, Adamson’s resemblance to a young Kevin Bacon is amusing.