Satanic Panic Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by RLJE Films
Directed by Chelsea Stardust
Written by Grady Hendrix and Ted Geoghegan
2019, 89 minutes, Not Rated
Released on September 6th, 2019
Rebecca Romijn as Danica Ross
Jerry O’Connell as Samuel Ross
Ruby Modine as Judi Ross
Hayley Griffith as Samantha “Sam” Craft
Jeff Daniel Phillips as Steve Larson
Arden Myrin as Gypsy Neumieir
Whitney Moore as Michelle Larson
Hannah Stocking as Kristen Larson
Skeeta Jenkins as Mr. Styles
Satanism and horror movies go together like Star Wars fans and discontent, like the internet and weird porn. They’re a matched pair, and there are many ways to approach the pairing. You can go dark and atmospheric like Ti West’s classic, House of the Devil. You can take it the stylish and increasingly tense route like the seminal Ira Levin/Roman Polanski masterpiece, Rosemary’s Baby. For shits and giggles, though, you can go for a tongue-in-cheek approach and leave plenty of room for surprises (and some head scratching) like the new release produced by Fangoria, Satanic Panic.
Sam Craft (Hayley Griffith) is the new girl at Home Run Pizza, a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint run by bossy cheapskate Mr. Styles (Skeeta Jenkins; Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich). She gets all the worst routes, and ends up running a hundred-dollar order outside of the delivery area to the bourgeois Mill Bason community. After being stiffed, she slips in the house to seek out her tip and instead becomes the de facto virgin for a coven of upper-class Satanist seeking to summon Baphomet. The group is lead by Danica Ross (Rebecca Romijn; X-Men series) and populated by her rich and powerful neighbors. Teaming up with Danica’s betrayed daughter, Judi (Ruby Modine; Happy Death Day series), she must survive the terrors of Satanic sacrifice and yuppie danger with her life and her womb intact. It’s a tall order.
Satanic Panic is a horror-comedy with an emphasis on the comedy. That’s not a nail in the coffin or even a harsh criticism by any means, but the fact smacks you in the face right from the opening scene in every aspect from the lighting to the shot framing. It feels as if it’s made for the teenage crowd right up until the moments when it goes full-on orgiastic and Society-light. Director Chelsea Startdust (Hulu’s Into the Dark: All That We Destroy) could’ve capitalized on a sweet premise and clever inversion of the “Satanic panic” of the ‘80s with a serious bent, but chose instead to skip deeper meaning in favor of the humor.
The positive side of that fact is that the cast embraces this and runs with at full speed despite the unevenness of the tone it produces. The chemistry between Hayley Griffith and Ruby Modine is lovely to watch, charming and almost light-hearted. Rebecca Romijn is clearly relishing her role and hamming it up, which is a hell of a sight for one of the world’s legendary beauties. Jerry O’Connell’s cameo steals damn near the entire show; “Look what you made me do! I’m a feminist!” is my new favorite line of this year.
The main thing that makes the tonal imbalance so jarring (it’s at odds with the teen comedy vibe) is also one of the things that makes it the most fun to watch – the SFX. The gore is clearly a heavy focus and they’re not screwing around. Grave worm barfing, tracheal organ removal, various nasty things pulled from the mouth, and baked soul monsters are highlights not to be missed. If gore is what your main focus is, then you’ll surely leave happy. The splatter gets a solid A. Also, a child gets punched, and that is NEVER a bad thing.
Where Satanic Panic glows is in the writing. That’s not a surprise; Grady Hendrix (Paperbacks From Hell, My Best Friend’s Exorcism) is one of the hottest names in the genre for a reason and Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here) is equally impressive. The snappy and engaging dialogue makes the film a goddamn blast to watch. The little details of character also endear you: in one scene, Sam needs to hightail it out of the house, but she simply must find a tee shirt to cover her partially exposed breasts (because she’s a virgin)! A hidden handgun produced from a cannister of oatmeal by the brand name of Holland Oats (get it?!) made me straight guffaw in the classic sense of the word. Come to think of it, the turn of phrase “triple faced fuck monster of remorseless intent” is my second favorite new line of the year.
The ending is an admittedly amusing deus ex machina, but that too is forgivable. The performances and the writing are enough to make up for direction that often feels at odds with itself while being heavy on the overt homage. At the end of the day, Satanic Panic is good old-fashioned blasphemous fun with its heart in the right place…which is to say pulled out through your throat and cooked at 400 degrees.
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