Well, that was just what I needed.
After several days of programming that was alternately bleak and grim at Chicago’s Cinepocalypse genre festival this year, along came Chelsea Stardust’s latest film, Satanic Panic, to serve as the wild, bloody kick in the ass I was looking for. This is a movie that knows exactly what it wants to give its audience and then overdelivers in those departments. It’s a blast.
The movie, Stardust’s second feature (following her entry into Hulu’s Into the Dark series, the very good All That We Destroy), stars the incredibly likable Hayley Griffith as Sam, a sweet, innocent twentysomething working her first day delivering pizzas. When she takes a job delivering to an address outside of her zone, she stumbles upon a group of Satan worshippers led by Rebecca Romijn looking to sacrifice a virgin and bring about the birth of an all-powerful demon. Wouldn’t you just know that Sam fits the bill of what they’re looking for?
The rest of Satanic Panic is basically an extended chase as Romijn and her minions (including Jordan Ladd, Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Arden Myrin) attempt to recapture Sam and Romijn’s daughter/original sacrifice, Judi (Ruby Modine of Happy Death Day) through a series of gross and sinister spells. Souls are cooked. Worms are vomited. Jerry O’Connell shows up in a very funny cameo as Romijn’s put-upon husband. And then there is the appearance of the drill-do (rhymes with ‘dildo’), about which the less said the better.
Stardust has described the movie as a mash-up of the kinds of horror movies she grew up loving—everything from Evil Dead to Jennifer’s Body to Drag Me To Hell – and it’s an apt description. The word “fun” has become something of a dirty word when talking about movies, as it’s often the descriptor people use when they either have nothing else good to say or when they don’t feel like articulating any of the qualities they like about a movie. But there is no better word for Satanic Panic than “fun,” because that’s precisely what Stardust is aspiring to. This is a movie that loves being a horror movie and celebrates everything about the genre it can, from blood and guts being spilled to practical creatures to weird sex stuff to body horror to at least one extreme case of hands going places they shouldn’t. Every few minutes, Satanic Panic invents some new gag (pun intended) or finds a way to top itself. It’s everything you might expect from a Fangoria production and everything a horror kid could want out of a horror movie.
In the age of the “elevated” horror film, Satanic Panic is the kind of horror film of which we don’t get enough: the party movie, the sort you want to watch in a group and rowdily react to every insane beat. It’s no empty genre exercise, either, as it has things to say about friendship, facing your fears, and finding your independence. It’s a movie with women in power both in front of and behind the camera. It’s a movie that will create new horror fans at sleepovers, and rewards those of us who are already fans. It’s so much goddamn fun, and that’s a good thing.
Movie Score: 3.5/5