TIFF Review: A Town Called Panic

A Town Called Panic

One of the few animated films to be shown at the Cannes film festival (not only this year but in the festival’s history), this strange little gem from Belgium starts at a cracking pace that it easily sustains for 75 minutes of roaring fun.  It is also the first G-rated film to be shown in the Midnight Madness program at TIFF, and it shows that you don’t need sex, violence or gore to have a subversive, “WTF” kind of film.

Giving a short synopsis of the plot is difficult, as it will probably make little sense.  But here goes: Horse, Cowboy and Indian share a house in their village.  It is Horse’s birthday, and Cowboy and Indian decide to make him a brick BBQ as a present.  Something goes terribly wrong in the ordering of bricks, and chaos for them and the rest of the town ensues.  Horse and his companions must search the over and under worlds for bricks, while the animals and people of the town eat their way through giant slices of bread and make Vladimir Horowitzes out of donkeys.

In order to picture this, you must picture the animation.  It is stop motion, first of all, using generic plastic toys of varying sizes (for example, the toy Janine is almost twice the size as the toy Steven, her husband).  Animals not only graze as per usual, but also take music lessons.  And ponds can lead to strange underwater worlds were brick houses are common, only upside-down.  Or maybe it is our world that is upside-down.

Knowing that the film came out of episodic television had me a little worried going in that I would get bored; but I can’t remember the last time I was less bored in such a frenetically paced film (which can often become boring despite their pace).  I also rarely stopped laughing, and when I did it was only to marvel at the genius of the writer for finding the most inventive plot twists, and the animators for matching it.  Bizarre and sophisticated enough for adults and children, A Town Called Panic makes you want to live in an upside-down house occupied by a horse.