City In Panic has a poster that looks like a giallo — well, it’s not as gorgeously designed as a traditional Italian poster, but the killer sure looks like he stepped off the set of a movie made in 1973 with an animal-based title — and makes the AIDS crisis a major part of its story, which is pretty woke for 1986. That said, it’s filled with so many homophobic moments and slurs that this will be the last time that I say that this movie has anything to do with being culturally sensitive*.
There aren’t many direct to video Canadian slashers that are willing to rip off — sorry, pay homage — to Fritz Lang while looking cheaper than any made for TV movie you’ve seen. That’s this movie, which was originally titled The AIDS Murders. The Lang steal is because the murderer, much like Peter Lorre, leaves an “M” behind on their victims (notice that I was PC in my pronoun usage, but really, I was trying to not spoil who the killer was).
Unlike every slasher ever, gay men are the targets here, with the first man being killed in the shower of Toronto’s Oak Leaf Steam Bath. Yes, this is a film either brave or foolish enough to start things off by shamelessly aping Hitchcock.
It’s also one of the only slashers I can think of where a slasher is opposed by a final boy, a shock jock who constantly argues on the air with right wingers.
Beyond being somewhere between slasher and giallo — that ending in a mannequin factory almost made me label it the latter — this is also a “based on a true story” movie, as it was inspired by the real-life murders of 14 gay men that all frequented the St. Charles Tavern on Yonge Street in Toronto.
*That said, several of the victims aren’t stereotypically gay, which is refreshing.