It’s no wonder 1986 film City in Panic is never mentioned with the myriad of forgotten slashers of the era. At a time when boobs and babes were the preferred dead meat (it was pretty much a rule), this is essentially a gay horror slasher in which the victims are predominantly homosexual men with AIDS, which caused this one to be labeled as completely anti-gay. Not surprisingly, if we look at it 30 years later with a less sensitive mindset, it’s quite the opposite.
Excluding Cruising, which just missed the mark on being a genuine gay slasher (my blog here), City in Panic pretty much is the first gay slasher. Unfortunately while it uses all the clichés – killer’s slowly approaching feet, vicious knife stabs, half naked victims (with hairy chests for a change) – it’s just not a suspenseful or scary film. It simply follows the rules without delivering the feel of a good slasher. On the bright side, it does deliver some awesomely cheesy 80s sounding pop rock.
Also, the plot is messy, jumping from the point of view of detectives working on the case to a radio talk show with various guests commenting on the case. Sadly, this means there’s no final boy to connect with. There is no gay male lead; gay men are strictly victims we never get to know.
There’s plenty of a homophobia and victim blaming, particularly from one anti-gay detective (who even says the killer is a sicko faggot). However, there are also notable defenders of the gay community and people with AIDS. A detective on the case goes after the homophobic detective hard for being anti-gay, a priest calls in and actually says nothing about the victims but calls the killer the devil, and the radio show host ends the film with narration making it clear that targeting those suffering with AIDS is so not cool for society.
The film boldly presents its gay characters, and the first kill is awesome because it’s essentially the Psycho shower scene re-shot with a male victim.
Another victim is a male stripper – he dances for women but he sure has no interest in sleeping with them.
A gym bunny gets a gruesome kill while hanging upside down doing crunches.
And a security guard gets his dick hacked off when he sticks it in a glory hole (no, there’s no shot of the severed penis).
Anyone who can keep their finger off the “offensive!” trigger while watching City in Panic will discover that in the end, the killer – who even has a random zombie daydream – is a psycho product of dysfunctional heterosexuality and merely looking for a scapegoat, which is an accurate comment on the social climate back then! City in Panic definitely has a home on my page of homo horror movies.