Don’t Panic (1987)

I’d love to have been a fly on the wall where Rubèn Galindo Jr., director of “Don’t Panic,” actually watched as someone from the wardrobe department went out, bought dinosaur pajamas in a man’s size, and decided to make it the primary outfit for his film’s protagonist. Dinosaur pajamas with red and blue dinosaurs that you’d find on a seven year old unironically became the motif for the central hero of a horror movie. And that’s not all that “Don’t Panic” has in store for its audience. Rubèn Galindo Jr.’s “Don’t Panic” is a mélange of plot devices that rip wholesale from the likes of Wes Craven, and Sam Raimi.

It’s Michael’s seventeenth birthday and his friends have decided to surprise him with the ultimate birthday bash: breaking into his house and playing with a Ouija board. But what they think is just a harmless bit of fun quickly turns into a supernatural terror when they unwittingly summon a demonic presence named Virgil, who proceeds to possess someone close to Michael, forcing them to savagely kill anyone and everyone Michael cares about. All the while, Michael begins to have terrifying dreams which he slowly begins to realize might be visions of the carnage that only he can stop.

Through the whole plot device of Ouija, he fits in subplots that go nowhere including an inexplicable mystical dagger, spontaneous possession, convenient demonic sight, and something about divorced parents that has almost no bearing on the outcome of the film’s narrative. For all intents and purposes Galindo’s Mexican slasher does have an idea of what it’s trying to get across and tries hard to deliver on the terror and gore. It just has no idea what it wants to be. Even in the very end, there’s never an indication on what we’re supposed to be feeling, if anything.

First it’s a slasher movie, then its movie about a dream demon, then it’s a possession movie, and then it ends on a light pop song you’d often see played in an “After School Special.” The film’s central villain also never seems to indicate what its ultimate scheme is. It’s a demon named Virgil who might be the devil, who is stalking the central hero Michael, but knocking off his friends. Their sins are having summoned it on the oujia board, but then it is ultimately chasing Michael. It reveals itself to have powers, but it spends its time sneaking around and stalking its victims and stabbing them to death.

Michael, who looks like a Discount Store version of Willie Aames, is given demonic sight, but it only works on seeing the demon, and leaves him generally blind to everything else. And without rhyme or reason, Michael’s friend Tony can only communicate through television screens. It all feels like Rubèn Galindo Jr. tossed in all these ingredients hoping to come out with something palatable to horror movie audiences. While you can’t argue that any of it makes sense, with the unibrows, bad hairdos, eighties fashion, and cheesy theme song, it sure is a lot of fun.