Looking for a horror film this week that will have you on your knees hailing Satan and Googling the nearest upcoming blood orgy? Then you’re going to love the hellish treat that is Satanic Panic…
…The next film from the Fangoria/Cinestate label, Satanic Panic is directed by phenomenal up and comer, Chelsea Stardust (All That We Destroy), with a script from Grady Hendrix (Mohawk). The film follows innocent virgin, Sam (Hayley Griffith), who, needing money to support her dreams of being a musician, takes a pizza delivery job. Desperate for a good tip, she jumps at the chance to deliver pizzas to a rich neighborhood. Sam gets more than she bargained for though when she stumbles on a group of elitist Satanists who just so happen to be in need of a female virgin.
Satanic Panic works on a lot of levels, but one of the key ingredients to this witch’s brew of hellfire and brimstone is Griffith as Sam. Griffith brings just the right amount of innocence and edge to her character, that it’s impossible not to like her. Hell, I wanted to be best friends with this girl! And Stardust does everything she can to get us on Sam’s side. Oozing vulnerability, Sam finds herself taken advantage of by just about everyone she meets, especially Duncan, played by AJ Bowen, who is perfectly sleazy in trying to get Sam to sleep with him because he got her the delivery job, and so we’re constantly rooting for her to stand up and fight back. Props are also deserved for whoever decorated Sam’s guitar for the film, because the stickers on it tell us everything that we need to know about her: cherries for virginity, a smiley face for her upbeat spirit in the face of adversity, and a rabbit for, well, you’ll see.
Stardust actually summons an all-around phenomenal cast for Satanic Panic. Not only is Griffith a sweet badass who can light up any scene, but the Satanists who she is up against are unlike any I’ve seen portrayed in film before. With mostly women in the key roles, these devil worshippers are like the Real Housewives of Hell. Rebecca Romijn is brilliantly devilish in the role of Danica, the leader of this group of upscale, white collar, elitist assholes willing to do anything to obtain more wealth. Outside of Danica, many of these robe-wearers are a bunch of goofy fuckups, especially Danica’s second in command, Gypsy (Arden Myrin), but the humor never goes so far as to take the viewer out of the film. Instead, Hendrix’s snappy, laugh-a-minute dialogue endeared me enough to love watching these bumbling monsters, even if they are as evil as humans can possibly get.
Satanic Panic is the best brand of horror comedy, because it is never not turned up to eleven. Just when you think this is going to be a lighthearted commentary on socialites versus blue collar America, Stardust whips out a horrifying drill penis, aka, a “giant killdo” as Danica’s daughter, Judi (Ruby Modine), refers to it. This film is a virgin’s worst nightmare. Whatever fears you ever had of sex, Satanic Panic capitalizes on just about all of them in gloriously gory fashion. From jaw-dropping throat fisting to the most perverted use of a sheet I’ve ever seen, the violence in this film is unreal. But for those terrified of mentions of penis drills, don’t worry, all of the gore is treated with a tongue-in-cheek, entertaining touch. Still, be warned, Satanic Panic gets nasty. These Satanists don’t just enjoy violence, they drink it up like two dollar margaritas on lady’s night.
Not only do the effects themselves look phenomenal-and all practical, by the way-but Satanic Panic takes a highly original approach to the concept, introducing limitless possibilities for mischievous evil. I went in expecting a reverse home invasion film with Sam trapped inside a mansion with a bunch of killers, and instead got something far more inventive. These Satanists are incredibly powerful, using ruthless black magic on their victims, which leads to some pretty grisly body horror. Think voodoo, but more disgusting and demonic. This approach allows for plenty of twists and turns, especially once various types of demons are summoned to do Danica’s bidding. Oh yeah, Satanic Panic revels in its 80s horror roots. If I had any complaint at all here, it would just be that each spell requires something of the victim’s, and it can get a little repetitive that the Satanists keep getting a hold of personal items, but the results far outweigh the means.
One line you’ll hear Danica and her Satan-loving friends chant over and over is “death to the weak, wealth to the strong”. And that’s pretty much the theme in a nutshell. Satanic Panic is all about how people like Sam are taken advantage of by the rich and powerful. I don’t blame these Satanists for doing it either when I look at the goddamn gorgeous production design of Danica’s mansion. Sam is outmatched and outnumbered on nearly every level, driven only by a will to survive. So, there’s much more to this film under the surface than loads of gory comedy and unique creatures baked in an oven like Martha Stewarts casserole from hell.
That’s also what brings me to the only weakness of the film: the ending. Doing my best to not spoil anything here, but in a film like Satanic Panic, where our heroine is used and abused by Satanists attempting to turn her virginal body into the devil’s baby making playground, you really want to see her beat the shit out of some Satanists. What we get instead is a finale that, while horrific and suspenseful, underwhelms as much as getting invited to a satanic orgy just to find out you’re the only one who showed up.
Still, Satanic Panic is a film worth worshipping that truly lives up to the “gor” part of the Fangoria label. Between this and All That We Destroy, Chelsea Stardust has established herself as one of the next great names in horror. Satan commands you to check out Satanic Panic as soon as possible.
Satanic Panic summons its way onto VOD on September 6th.
By Matt Konopka