Vinegar Syndrome: Don't Panic (1988) - Reviewed

Recently Vinegar Syndrome began digging up the works of one Ruben Galindo, Jr., a Mexican film director specializing in practical effects driven horror.  At the tail end of the 1980s the director churned out two genre classics spoken of the same breath as Spookies with his zombie outbreak thriller Cemetery of Terror followed by his unfinished business demon story Grave Robbers
In between these pictures, however, Galindo tried breaking into the international market with the 1988 English language but Mexican set demonic possession flick Don’t Panic.  A film so stricken with cultural disconnection and misconstrued ideas about how English speaking teenagers interact (let alone dress) it earned a spotlight by Vinegar Syndrome and stands alone as one of the weirdest films ever released by the home video company and easily the oddest effort of Galindo’s short lived film directing career.

American teenager Michael (Jon Michael Bischof) lives in a Mexico City where everyone speaks broken English and high schools look curiously like our own.  On his birthday, his friends cook up the wildest of surprises by breaking into his home with a Ouija board and inadvertently summoning a demon which proceeds to possess his soul to fulfill a Satanic agenda.
Plot wise this follows the same story beats of Grave Robbers and Cemetery of Terror, only here our poor teenager stricken with an otherworldly affliction is a seventeen-year-old who spends most of the film in children’s dinosaur pajamas.  Soon bloody demonic mayhem follows and Galindo’s trademark visual effects come into play while the whole thing is offset by the strange broken English and those damn pajamas, making this one of the weirdest English language teen horror films ever!
While functioning as a loose tribute to A Nightmare on Elm Street, when factoring the cultural loss in translation with very Mexican ideas about how American teenagers talk and interact, Don’t Panic comes across as positively bonkers and unintentionally humorous.  Much like the Egyptian born Ovidio G. Assonitis or the Golan-Globus Cannon Films team, the European understanding of American cinema in the abstract differs greatly from their knowledge (or lack thereof) of the culture being depicted. 

Despite the English language track designed to tap into international markets, Don’t Panic remained in Mexico until the early 2000s with a DVD disc release of questionable picture quality.  Rescued by Vinegar Syndrome and restored in 4K, the film remains a curious oddity both in Galindo, Jr.’s filmography as well as the annals of 80s teen horror.  In the end it’s a solid little number which just so happens to depict the American teenage protagonist as one who never tired of his dinosaur pajamas!

--Andrew Kotwicki