Three buddies sit by a campfire, swapping riffs on Genesis — the band, not the book in the Bible — Joe Namath vs. Joe Montana and donut “hole” vs. donut “whole.”
The next morning, none of those debates are resolved. And when they get back to the car owned by the ex-con in their ranks, they find a body in the trunk.
That’s the promising set-up to “Silent Panic,” an occasionally solid if lukewarm and uninvolving and logic-strained thriller from writer-director Kyle Schadt.
What will they do if one guy says they CANNOT go to the cops? How would ordinary Joes dispose of a corpse? What or who will trip them up?
Schadt brews up some tension among the three (Sean Nateghi, Joseph Martinez, Jay Habre) and contrives some inventive “This could be their undoing” blunders, miscommunications and coincidences.
But ignoring the fact that these three would have no clue about quarterbacks who retired before they were born, naming the ex-con “Eagle” (Nateghi) only seems like a good idea on paper.
Having his pals, or his wife (Constance Brenneman, the stand-out in this cast) start every sentence with, “But Eagle” or “Hey Eagle” or “Wait a minute, Eagle” sets the listener’s teeth on edge.
“Eagle, who ARE you right now? You’re acting like a SISSY. Man UP!” loses its sting.
Bobby (Martinez) is divorced, a single-dad and unemployed. And as the three agree (Eagle bullies them) to NOT call the police, is left with rising paranoia that pushes him into a craving for the drugs he’s supposedly quit, traumatizing his little boy as he does.
The maddening and not quite funny scene with his former drug dealer, the aged hippy Frank (Jeff Dowd of “Desperately Seeking Susan”) is a stand-out moment in the movie, and Bobby’s coked-out motorcycle ride is the most technically deft scene.
Dom (Habre) is the journalist of the trio, our narrator dating the “Sharon Tate gorgeous” coed, Sharon (Juliet Frew). That might be the most unfortunate line in the picture, certainly the most unfortunate comparison.
Schadt has the makings of a close-to-the-vest thriller like “The Loft,” but “Silent Panic” might have been more at home taking a “Weekend at Bernie’s” dark farce direction.
There’s a body of a young woman. They keep trying to dispose of it, get the car “stolen,” etc. Outside forces conspire to bring it back. Again and again.
Make the corpse male and go for laughs? Could have worked.
As it is, Schadt and cast slow-walk this thriller towards a finish line that seems to be moving further away the slower the movie gets. Any heat generated by the promising set-up dissipates long before they cross it.
MPAA Rating: unrated, a corpse, drug abuse
Cast: Sean Nateghi, Constance Brenneman, Joseph Martinez, Juliet Frew, Jay Habre
Credits: Written and directed by Kyle Schadt. A Viral Man release.
Running time: 1:35