Satanic Panic Review
Splatter meets social satire in 'Satanic Panic.'
Release Date: September 6, 2019
MPAA Rating: NR
A pizza delivery girl at the end of her financial rope has to fight for her life – and her tips – when her last order of the night turns out to be high society Satanists in need of a virgin sacrifice.
Director: Chelsea Stardust
Screenwriters: Grady Hendrix, Ted Geoghegan
Producers: Adam Goldworm, Amanda Presmyk, Dallas Sonnier
Cast: Hayley Griffith (Samantha Craft), Rebecca Romijn (Danica Ross), Jerry O’Connell (Samuel Ross), Jordan Ladd (Kim Larson), Ruby Modine (Judi Ross), Arden Myrin (Gypsy Neumieir), Whitney Moore (Michelle Ross), Jeff Daniel Phillips (Steve Larson), Hannah Stocking (Kristen Larson), Michael Polich (Gary Neumieir)
Cinematographer: Mark Evans
Production Designer: Bryan Walior
Casting Director: David Guglielmo
Music Score: Wolfmen of Mars
There was a period in the early eighties where parents and politicians believed anything and everything that teenagers and young adults were into was the work of the devil. This era has jokingly become known as the “Satanic Panic.” Sadly, Satanic Panic is not about this fun point in American history. But it is a fun little horror movie.
Satanic Panic is about a pizza delivery girl named Samantha Craft (Hayley Griffith from “All My Children”) whose first day is riddled with bad customers and worse tips. She thinks that her luck might be changing when she gets an order from a remote – and rich – area. Unfortunately, the customers turn out to be a group of Satanists lead by a woman named Danica Ross (Rebecca Romijn from the X-Men movies), and they want more than just pizza from Sam – they want her as a sacrifice. Sam finds an unlikely ally in Danica’s daughter, Judi (Happy Death Day’s Ruby Modine), as she fights her way through the night.
Director Chelsea Stardust is having a banner year, with her Hulu original All That We Destroy releasing at the beginning of the summer and Satanic Panic now ushering in the fall horror season. The screenplay for Satanic Panic was written by Grady Hendrix (Mohawk) from a story that he cooked up with Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here), and essentially, it’s a girl-on-the-run story, with Sam trying to escape the Satanists, only to find herself in more dangerous situations as the night goes on. Every time she gets away, she winds up in a worse predicament, sort of like an out of the frying pan and into the fire deal. Sure, it’s ridiculously unbelievable, but that’s the point. As her night goes on, she faces more and more outlandish circumstances. And the audience is completely there for it the whole time.
While it’s not really a retro-throwback movie, Satanic Panic does feel strangely comfortable. It successfully captures the vibe of the old straight-to-video gems of the eighties without ever feeling dated. It’s familiar without being formulaic. There’s very little in the story that hasn’t been done before, but with their relatable characters and clever twists, Stardust and Hendrix manage to keep everything fresh and new.
Satanic Panic is a lighthearted movie, but there’s an undercurrent of sinister-ness that is mostly a product of the modern times. Sam is a working-class girl saddled with a menial low-wage job trying to pay off debt, and she finds herself being hunted by the rich and entitled elite who feel like she owes them her gratitude. Basically, Satanic Panic is a slick combination of Society and The Purge (or, more accurately, The Purge: Anarchy). The message may not be intentional on the part of the filmmakers, but the allegory comes through loud and clear.
It’s unfortunate that Satanic Panic is releasing around the same time as the similarly-themed Ready or Not, because although both are good movies, Ready or Not is a little better and has a way higher profile, so Satanic Panic may wind up getting lost in the shuffle. And that’s a shame, because there’s plenty of room for both movies, and Satanic Panic is well worth checking out.
Satanic Panic leans harder into its comedy aspects instead of its horror ones, and the overall scariness of the film suffers because of it. As the movie goes on, it gets more and more over the top, and there’s some good gore when it finally turns into its eventual splatterfest. But the blood and guts are more funny than scary, and Sam’s hysterical reactions to the horror are more effective than the horror itself. This is a trademark of “fun” horror movies, though, so the lack of genuine scares shouldn’t turn anyone off. Satanic Panic is plenty entertaining, even if it doesn’t scare the hell out of you.