In the movies, during high-stress situations, the hero knows exactly what to do. If I’m caught in the middle of a gunfight, I’m standing right behind Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, and Keanu Reeves, cuz I want to live, and they instantly know how to get the hell out of that situation. But this is real life, and in Kyle Schadt’s Silent Panic, there’s no action hero around for his little crew.
Silent Panic opens with three lifelong friends, Dominic (Jay Habre), Bobby (Joseph Martinez), and Eagle (Sean Bateghi) on a guy’s camping trip loaded with the usual antics of goofing off, yammering on about inane subjects, and a brief moment when they’re real with one another. Dom has a new girlfriend. Bobby is sharing custody of his son with his ex-wife, and Eagle is freshly out of prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Meanwhile, two thugs are loading a dead body into the trunk of Eagle’s car.
The next morning as the men argue about donut “wholes” (ah, stupid boys), they quickly discover the dead body in the trunk. Bobby is the first, and he goes right into shock, Dominic slowly walks away from the car, Eagle quickly slams the trunk and tells the guys to just dump the body and leave. Eagle has the most to lose in the situation as he has a felony record.
‘Meanwhile, two thugs are loading a dead body into the trunk of Eagle’s car…”
An argument ensues, as Bobby and Dom want to do the right thing and tell the police, Eagle is dead set against it because he doesn’t want to go back to prison for yet another crime he didn’t commit. Thus begins the plot of the film, how do our protagonists get the body to the police without being investigated as suspects in the murder and how do you keep a cool head knowing there’s a dead body in the car.
There’s something to be said about going to the police, telling the truth, and justice will prevail, but then that’s a dull movie. Instead, under Eagle’s insistence, they take the body home and take some time to figure out a solution. Soon, hours turn to days, and the body is just sitting in the trunk.
Silent Panic is less an action crime drama, but more a psychological thriller. Writer/director Kyle Schadt instead follows the mind games our heroes play on themselves and one another. Each of the lead characters processes the situation in three very different ways.
“…story is solid in choosing the three paths for his characters to go down…”
Bobby just freaks out. The shock of discovering the body gives him PTSD, and he suffers the most in his head. Dominic stews on the situation to the point where he shuts down and won’t talk about it or almost anything. Eagle is the one who has to do actually something with the body, he’s the one trying to stay one step ahead of the police, while at the same time hide it from his girlfriend Robin (Constance Brenneman). The same girlfriend who stood by Eagle the first time he went to prison.
This is the kind of film that Film Threat loves to get behind. It’s an ambitious, indie film with a lot of heart behind it. Schadt’s story is solid in choosing the three paths for his characters to go down. He then takes the consequences of their inaction to its logical conclusions and a decidedly thriller-esque conclusion. The acting is just as solid from the leads and written with enough challenge for any actor looking for a role with a little bite to it.
If I had one quibble, it’s the music and some of the interstitial images (especially the title sequence). It’s a hard-driving, studio, rock soundtrack. It felt like it was giving off a big studio vibe against the actual indie film feel. In other words, they didn’t mesh well together. Again, I’m quibbling about music and titles, when you really need to focus and enjoy the story and the performances itself.
Ultimately, I liked the fact that Schadt created a mystery that doesn’t go down the same rabbit hole as the typical thriller is tempted to take. It’s different and warrants your time to check it out.
Silent Panic (2019) Written and directed by Kyle Schadt. Starring Sean Nateghi, Joseph Martinez, Jay Habre, Constance Brenneman.
7.5 out of 10 stars