Satan is making a comeback in the horror movies (he never truly left but more in the forefront), while treated with class from Ready or Not (2019) to the documentary Hail Satan (2019) and now the horror comedy Satanic Panic from director Chelsea Stardust (Seeing Green ) using a screenplay that truly pops and splatters when necessary. The writer who created the story, Ted Georghegan noted for his work on We Are Still Here (2015) and Barricade (2007); but handling the screenplay that’s the author of the must-read non-fiction Paperbacks from Hell, Grady Hendrix. The producer on this production, needs no introduction he’s noted for returning the Fangoria magazine to print, that’s Dallas Sonnier some of his films are Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) and Dark was the Night (2014) among many others. However, one must note, this movie has nothing to do with the concept of the cultural impact of 1980s, there’s no mention of it, one comical line could’ve worked, but alas nothing explored in that direction, nevertheless the distribution and support comes from RLJE Films and Cinestate.
It all starts with a teenage cancer survivor Sam Craft (Haley Griffith), a young folk-singer who is on her first day of delivering pizzas, already has out-of-pocket expenses for the heated bag and discovering the hard way that your customers can be real jerks about tipping, and a stupid prank about the ‘Sam rule’. Near the end of the night, low on gas, she arrives at a phenomenal mansion, pursuing a tip, Sam slips in through an open window into a strange gathering, it’s a group of affluent Satanists, who encountered a small problem lost their virgin sacrifice. However, Sam a tad slow to understand what’s occurring, as she makes the pitch for a tip while she spread that the folks in Highland Park are fairly cool individuals. Gypsy Neumieir (Arden Myrin) inquires to Sam are you virgin, Sam put-off by it and with that cult is back in action. A group of wealthy all-American Devil worshipers, headed by scarlet-clad Danica (Rebecca Romijn (Wish Upon )), she is steeped in occult lore, and overplays her hand at times, upset with a dilemma their originally intended sacrifice, her daughter Judi (Ruby Modine (Happy Death Day )), who lost her virginity in the opening scene of the movie. Danica realizes a virgin has appeared – SAM – the stars are right, and the moment has arrived, unfortunately Danica’s husband, Samuel (Jerry O’Connell (Piranha 3D )) also scheduled to be part of the sacrifice. He proposes a solution to save her by liberating her from her virginity, but she’s not seeking any part of it. O’Connell truly delivers a fine performance in fact his scene is quite entertaining and amusing. Sam escapes the Satanists, while they quarrel with each other over power and rights to head the coven, and heads next door where she meets Judi realizing her options heavily limited, she suggests they – have sex… Sadly, Satan’s a bit of prude, not exactly, the rules play by the old-fashioned view of sex, set up in the Garden of Eden – ugh. Overall, it’s a well-paced, story, filled with vulgarity and gore, orgies and humor, though lacking straight-horror.
Chelsea makes sure to deliver enthusiasm and while the movie has terrific use of settings, set design and nicely filmed, it lacks a key element it’s all too bright, and that ruins the horror elements, not enough candle-lit ceremonies, darkened rooms, it’s set-up as a comedy flick than horror, losing the atmosphere and dramatic suspense. When horror audiences see the word Satan in a title it’s often affiliated with sacrifices and sheer terrorizing moments, while it doesn’t go into Hell Baby (2013) outrageous comedy, it’s still missing key moments, mainly from some of performances, a tad too much over-acted scenes, while O’Connell and AJ Bowen (Among Friends ) as Duncan give extended cameos. The writers thoroughly understand the occult and isn’t any shortage of erotic and bondage elements, thanks to Rachel Wilson’s costumes, it almost feels as if Lloyd Kaufman is going to emerge when the weird strap-on devices appear. Satanic Panic was made in 18 days, and cost right around a million dollars and shot mostly at night using practical, gore and creature effects, while the score had a playful and even style from Wolfmen Of Mars.
Clearly it’s not a 70s exploitation film, nor the classy Devil Rides Out (1968), or slow-burn of The Witch (2015), though I thought at times it reminded of The House of the Devil (2009) with the smart character of Sam. One should mention that his movie has nothing to do with the movie of the same name Satanic Panic (2009) by director Marc Selz that actually had more to do with the craze surrounding the concept of then. rather a self-satisfied movie clearly made for audiences who think the mere mention of Satan is both extremely awesome and extremely hilarious. There’s blood, but no horror; ripping throughout the film show plenty of gusto, but lacking on a deep horror rich tale when dealing with Satan, therefore, enjoy it with a light-hearted frame of mind, it’s entertaining and enjoyable, it doesn’t always need to have serious tone.
IMDb Rating: 5.7/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.5/10