Panic Beats (1982)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Haunted House Film, Supernatural Horror  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - Spain   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Donald Guarisco

With this film, Paul Naschy downplays the "blood and thunder" style of horror he is known for to create something that is more a mystery/thriller with a ghost-story plot hook. That said, Panic Beats still has the penny-dreadful feel of his better known work. The script's twists are pretty easy to predict, particularly if you are familiar with Gaslight or Rebecca (which is actually referenced in the dialogue here). Panic Beats also relies on the kind of overwrought, sleazy melodrama that will make even the hardiest soap opera fans roll their eyes, especially during the series of trysts and double-crosses that dominate the film's second half. The acting tends toward campiness, with Julia Saly taking top honors for her performance as the beleaguered wife character (her ability to scream frequently is admittedly impressive). The shocks have a deadpan B-movie nastiness that makes them more amusing than frightening. Naschy's direction is as subtle as a flying mallet, but one gets the sense that he genuinely and passionately loves the pulp he's creating. It's also worth noting that he sometimes cuts through the overwrought nature of the work with a genuinely creepy moment -- the best is an atmospheric nightmare sequence involving the maid. Simply put, Panic Beats pushes the horror genre into pure camp -- but it is camp of a sometimes otherworldly sort, so it's worth a look to cult movie fans as a curiosity piece.