Lifetime Original Thriller Fails to Thrill At All
Last Saturday, I published a piece on November Sweeps called “November 2007 Sweeps – Day 3: ‘Panic Button’ on Lifetime.” Since the article went live, it has received phenomenal traffic, all originating from search engines. When I investigated, I found that the post is the top returned result on Google for the combined search terms “panic button” and “lifetime.” The fact that the visits have not slowed yet indicates the dearth of material on the subject.
Apparently, certain TV watchers are really starved for information about this particular movie, so I can only imagine how disappointed visitors must become when they find that my earlier piece only includes a two-sentence description of the film. Since I’m not inclined to deny folks what they want, the following is my review of the Lifetime original movie Panic Button, formerly/alternatively called Point of Entry. Unfortunately, as you’ll see, it’s not a pretty picture. Keep in mind that when I watched Panic Button, I had no intention of reviewing it. Consequently, I didn’t record it for future reference, which means I’m guided solely by what I remember.
I tuned in to Lifetime on November 3 for the premiere of Panic Button for one primary reason: the cast. It includes Charmed and Picket Fences alum Holly Marie Combs, former porn sensation Traci Lords, infrequently seen Dallas star Charlene Tilton, and the original Shaft of Blaxploitation-flicks legend, Richard Roundtree. Yet, with the exception of a truly creepy, understated performance by daytime (Days of Our Lives) and nighttime (Melrose Place) soap-opera veteran Patrick Muldoon, the movie is largely insignificant. This effect is not due to lack of talent, but rather the complete absence of anything remotely related to a compelling plot. For an alleged thriller, Panic Button includes nothing that viewers haven’t seen before, making the suspense about as exciting and puzzling as the color beige.
Combs plays central character Kathy Alden, an antiques restorer, young-ish wife, and mother of a single child whose family moves to a beautiful and supposedly secure gated community after she’s the victim of a violent house break-in. She, her husband Richard (Canadian Roark Critchlow, a former player on daytime soaps The Bold and the Beautiful, Passions, and Days of Our Lives), and their eight-year-old son Sam (Max Burkholder of Land of Time) quickly develop a friendship with seemingly benign next-door neighbor Caleb Theroux (Muldoon).
Theroux, a trust-fund baby, claims to be a writer, and he quickly lures Kathy into his home after learning her vocation by asking her to restore an armoire in his garage. It soon emerges that (…wait for it…) the real man is nothing like the image he projects. By the time the truth comes out, however, he’s already managed to ensconce himself in the lives of the gullible Alden family.
A parallel plot involves out-of-town police detective Miles Porter (Roundtree). His goddaughter and her entire family are brutally murdered in the movie’s opening scenes, setting the stage for his determined trip to the Aldens’ exclusive neighborhood to track down their killer. Of the remaining notable cast members, Lords portrays a single, swinging community resident who becomes Kathy’s confidante, while Tilton has a brief throwaway role as the real estate agent that handles the sale of their new home. She’s onscreen for so little time, you might miss her all together if you let your attention slip.
On October 13 and 14, I caught another Lifetime original feature, the two-part supernatural mini-series The Gathering. It stars The O.C.‘s Peter Gallagher, Jane’s brother and Bridget’s dad Peter Fonda, Drive and Judging Amy‘s Kristin Lehman, and The Sopranos‘ Jamie-Lynn Sigler. Again, a notable cast attracted me. The only difference is that The Gathering was a made-for-TV production that delivered a story worth watching, thanks to its genuinely suspenseful—and weird—plot. I can’t say the same for Panic Button.
Although, it was nice to see Holly and Richard and Charlene on the small screen again, don’t let the title’s (intentional?) similarity to the engaging Jodie Foster flick Panic Room deceive you. I can’t give Lifetime’s clunker Panic Button my approval, despite the small-screen popularity of its principle cast. Even Lifetime obviously doesn’t think much of its own presentation: there’s no information whatsoever for the movie on either Lifetime or Lifetime Movie Network’s Web site. Still, if you’d like a quick preview, just check out the following trailer that someone had the presence of mind to upload before all traces of the flick disappear from online.
The Verdict: D
Holly Marie Combs photo courtesy of The WB/The CW