"The minute Michael set eyes upon the Ouija board he became overwhelmed with nausea and repulsion.
But for Tony his best friend the board was to become an obsession. An obsession that unlocks the terrible forces of the board, releasing "Virgil", a spirit that will possess his soul and force him into a wave of terror delivering his victims to a brutal death.
Haunted by nightmares and premonitions, Michael witnesses each bloody murder through a series of out-of-body experiences that terrify him and leave him in doubt of his sanity.
During one of these premonitions Tony is able to manifest his old soul to Michael and warn him that "Virgil" has possessed his body and is committing the ghastly murders from beyond the grave.
To prevent other victims falling to "Virgil's" wrath, Michael must end the nightmare by finding the demon's dagger and bury it in the demon's heart.
NOW MICHAEL MUST FACE THE FURY OF HELL ITSELF."
If you ever wondered what would have happened if Elm Street was South of the Border then wonder no longer, Mexico's DON'T PANIC provides the pleasingly trashy answer. Nachos with extra cheese please!
Poor Michael (Jon Michael Bishof), not only has he got to leave the States to go and live with his Mother abroad ("Mexico City for the rest of High School - the pits!"), he also sports perhaps one of the biggest hair-don'ts in cinematic history: a tightly permed dirty blond mullet, which distinctly looks like an under-groomed poodle's arse. Perhaps unaware of his sartorial handicap, he falls for Alexandra (Gabriela Hassel) (also a new girl in school), a pretty if mono-browed, squeaky voiced airhead (think Liam Gallagher crossed with Marilyn Monroe (complete with ickle girl voice)). This unlikely pair first catch each other's eye when, after Michael's seventeenth birthday party, a small group of friends hide away and jump out with a surprise present: a Ouija Board. At first, Michael balks at the idea of using it, "I promised I'd never play with one again ... ", he intones ominously. However, his Tequila swigging best friend Tony (Juan Ignacio Aranda) (surely the first '17' year old to have a hairy back) insists they do, so they can contact a spirit called 'Virgil'. Egged on by the other big haired teens Michael reluctantly agrees. However, despite much gurning and summoning nothing appears to happen. One of the girls says, "This is crap!". Michael points out (rather late in the day if you ask me) that the spirit that they are trying to summon is the Devil himself. Before they can have another go Michael's Mom bursts in and sends the giggling teens out into the night. However, unseen the Ouija board bursts into life all by itself ...
The next day Michael is late for school and despite bribing a guard with a porn mag (!) is unable to get into his lesson. However, as fate would have it Frida Kahlo herself, Alexandra, is also in the same position, so the two play hookey from school, leading to a delightfully cheesy romantic interlude where they stop to feed the ducks, have their picture taken in sombreros and play peek-a-boo with each other as they eat giant ice cream sundaes. Doing nothing to keep the bile from rising, Tony picks a red rose from a nearby vase and, handing it to Michael, tells him that, "As long as love exists between you two the rose shall never wither.". ... Bleurghhh.
However, the dangerous Meg Ryan route the film seems to be heading in is luckily derailed when Michael dreams (or is he?) a bloody hand poking out of the ceiling. Also, he is suddenly woken with sharp pains in his head; his pupils have gone mysteriously red, and, in a vision through the eyes of the killer, he witnesses the bloody murder of one of his class mates (who was there the night of the Ouija Board) with a large ceremonial dagger. He brushes this off (as you do) and seems fairly unconcerned until he witnesses another of his classmates having the dagger driven deep into the top of her head. Finally waking up to the dilemma he realises that someone is knocking off all the kids who were that night and only him - and his new found psychic powers - can stop them!
As far as A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) rip-offs go this is probably one of the best, not least because the killer keeps those scare defeating quips to a minimum. It's fun to spot which bits of Wes Craven's seminal slasher flick the director is cannibalising: the hero has an alcoholic Mom (check); the characters watch self-referential clips of horror movies on TV (in this case the director's own zombie/slasher hybrid CEMETERY OF TERROR (1985)); a scene in a classroom where the main character 'dreams' the bloody demise of a classmate, during a lesson on literature (in this case Shelley) (check); the crispy faced, gravel voiced villain (check); the concerned parents who think their kid is going bonkers and call in the doctors (check). ... Oh, well, you get the idea.
Luckily, DON'T PANIC has a few things going for itself. As I said before, keeping the killer in the shadows for much of the running time helps (you see why if you see the film), as does keeping the quips to a minimum. It's also pleasingly sanguine, with some nice gore fx from 80's supremo Screaming Mad George (a dagger blade shoved underneath through the chin of one unfortunate teen, and wiggling around messily in his mouth, is a standout). But it's the over-the-top performances from the young (and not so young) cast that really makes this enjoyable (in a guilty pleasure type of way).
It's ironic that even though the film is set in Mexico City it could easily be anywhere USA. All the signs are in English and everyone acts as if they are American; perhaps because they aren't using their native tongue it adds that 'special' quality to their performances. (It's doubly ironic, I guess, that a film which was so obviously modeling itself on US genre output remains unreleased there, as far as I know.) I especially liked Alexandra's enthusing when she saw the inside of Michael's bedroom, which was adorned with posters of motor-racing cars, "I love your room - it's FANTASTIC!". Another bad movie standout scene is when Michael, frustrated at not being able to tell Alexandra what is going on, flies into a 'rage' and does one of the crappest room trashings ever (he tears one poster slightly; throws some jockstraps at a poster of a woman bending over and - shock! - knocks over a pot of pencils!).
DON'T PANIC is a riot of blood and cheese! It even has a few fairly suspenseful scenes (especially one set in a hospital when Michael is unable to convince the staff there that a nurse is in mortal danger), but it's the fine 80's vintage cheddar that most HYSTERIA LIVES! readers will gorge themselves on - and there's more than enough for everyone.
female:2 / male:4
1) Male glimpsed being stabbed with a ceremonial dagger
2) Female slashed with dagger and stabbed through top of head
3) Female stabbed to death with dagger
4) Male has his throat slashed with dagger
5) Male stabbed through the underneath of his chin with dagger
6) Male stabbed in chest with dagger