Panic Room (2002)
Main cast: Jodie Foster (Meg Altman), Kristen Stewart (Sarah Altman), Forest Whitaker (Burnham), Dwight Yoakam (Raoul), and Jared Leto (Junior)
Director: David Fincher

Like most of - okay, all of - David Fincher's thrillers, Panic Room is actually less smart than it pretends to be. It is right at home within the ranks of similarly pretentious thrillers like Fight Club, Se7en, The Game, and Hannibal. Strip away the hype (this movie has Jodie Foster's return after what seems like an eternity away from the big screen, just like how Se7en has Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow and Hannibal rides on Silence Of The Lamb's success) and I get a silly movie.

Jodi Foster plays Meg. Meg gets a big fat check after her divorce, and she moves to a big, gloomy mansion to live with her daughter Sarah. The mansion comes complete with a "Panic Room", a high tech room designed to keep in and keep safe its inhabitants for a long, long time. Think of it like a high-tech bomb shelter.

Why would anyone want to move into a dour, dank, and creepy house like that? It is not as if Meg and Sarah are horror movie fangirls. But this movie doesn't care. See, the big house, the Panic Room, and the characters in this movie are just tools to thrill me. But Fincher and gang go about thrilling me in a very obvious and unsubtle way. Send three stupid thugs to raid the house, have Meg and Sarah lock themselves in the Panic Room - trapped. Ow. Wait, Meg's claustrophobic, and Sarah's diabetic. Where's my insulin shot, momma? Momma, you didn't hook up the phone before you lock us in, you stupid ^%$#!

So there they go. Screams, shrieks, near-misses, boo, peek-a-boos, blah blah blah. Fincher tries so hard to be Hitchcockian in his art, but really, dear, thrilling me isn't just loud sounds and poorly-lit hallways, you know. It's in the atmosphere, the build-up, and the culmination. Not this hammy movie with overacting villains and contrived heavy breathing.

Sure, Jodie Foster plays Meg with her usual aplomb, but she's merely another hamster in Fincher's ferris wheel. At the end of the day, Panic Room doesn't deliver the thrills, and come to think of it, it's pretty silly too. Any loony bin who moves into a house that looks like a third-rate Winchester Mystery Mansion deserves all the pain he or she gets.

Now go back to the drawing room, Fincher.

Rating: 58

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