On Friday, September 6th, director Chelsea Stardust’s Satanic Panic will be hitting select theaters and will also be arriving on digital platforms as well. Featuring a brilliant cast that includes Rebecca Romijn, Jerry O’Connell, Ruby Modine, Jordan Ladd, AJ Bowen, Jeff Daniel Phillips, as well as up-and-coming actress Hayley Griffith, with a screenplay from Grady Hendrix, Stardust’s infectiously funny horror comedy is centered on a pizza delivery girl (Griffith) who gets more than she bargains for after she decides to confront a group of rich weirdos who stiff her on a tip, and realizes they have sinister plans for both her and her virgin status.
Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with Stardust recently, and she discussed how she originally became involved with Satanic Panic after already being a fan of the script, her experiences working with her brilliant cast, experiencing the film on the road with various audiences, and more.
I'd love to start at the beginning with Satanic Panic and talk about how it came together. Was this something that Grady brought to you? Did you seek it out? I'm just curious how it all came together initially.
Chelsea Stardust: So, the first time I came across Satanic Panic was in the end of 2017. A friend actually sent me the script and she said, "Hey, you should check this out. I think it's up your alley and I know you're a fan of Grady Hendrix." I read the script and I wrote her back. I said, "This is batshit crazy. I can't wait to see who makes it." And then cut to summer of 2018, and I think Fangoria was specifically looking for a female director, and I think they had talked to Ryan Turek at Blumhouse and were asking him, "Hey, who are some great female directors that you would recommend?" They had a list and they were talking through if they had missed anybody, and he suggested me because I had just done All That We Destroy with Blumhouse.
They watched that movie and reached out to my rep and sent the script. And then when the script came to me, I said, "Oh, I've already read this. I love it." And I love Grady’s work. Knowing that it's Fangoria that is involved, I just needed to know what do I need to do to get this? And so I just pitched my vision for it and I sent them screen grabs of movies for references, and songs and score ideas and just really pitched my vision for the movie. I had my DP read the script and we talked about the look of the movie, and I sent them this big packet, had a conference call with them, and they gave me the job.
That’s awesome. Let's talk about the cast, because it's pretty stacked from top to bottom. There are so many fun and familiar faces from the horror community, plus you also have Rebecca and Jerry in this. But I have to say, I completely fell in love with Hayley in this movie. I think when you have a big cast like this, where you have some really larger-than-life performances, she comes through in this way that your heart just connects with her, and she's so good.
Chelsea Stardust: Oh yeah. Well, casting this movie was so much fun. And Hayley, she actually sent in a self-tape because she's based out of New York. When I saw her audition, I basically said, "That's our Sam. It's her." And in the realm of Hollywood, she was a completely unknown actor. A lot of times producers won't take a chance on an unknown, because they're like, " We want certain cast members that have a following, and audiences will recognize them.” But they agreed that Hayley was perfect for the role, and she was so incredible. I think she's a superstar. I can't wait to see what she does next.
Then, working with Ruby Modine, who also comes from the Blumhouse world, was so much fun. I'd been a fan of hers for a long time. And like you said, we have horror royalty. We have Jeff Daniel Phillips, Jordan Ladd, AJ Bowen, Whitney Moore, and Clarke Wolfe, so it was awesome to be able to work with all those actors. Plus, working with Rebecca and Jerry was amazing, too. That's another reason I think that the balance of comedy and horror works so well in Satanic Panic is because we have these incredible actors and they helped make my job easy.
Well, that leads me into my next question. You can feel a genuine sense of camaraderie between everyone on screen here. It's palpable. Was that something you felt throughout production?
Chelsea Stardust: Oh, absolutely. When you're making a low-budget movie, no one's there strictly for the paycheck. Everyone's there because they want to be there, and I think that comes through. Also, it was a tough shoot. It was 18 days, six-day weeks, most of which were night shoots. It was tough, and I think every movie's a miracle. And everyone was, including my crew, all about it. There was definitely a camaraderie. It was almost like being at summer camp with all these amazing people.
Something that I really appreciated about Satanic Panic, beyond all the fun genre elements and the comedy, was that this story boils down to being about women who are taking control of their bodies, whether it's through Hayley's character or Ruby's character. And I just thought it was really interesting because I feel like we're in a time where women have to reclaim themselves in a way. Was that something that was conscientious in the back of your mind while working on this project?
Chelsea Stardust: Definitely. It's interesting that a movie like Jennifer's Body is having a resurgence recently. Nothing about the movie Jennifer's Body has changed, it's just people are now finally paying attention to it and realizing what that movie really is about, especially with the relationship between Jennifer and Needy. I really applied a lot of that to Satanic Panic because the characters of Sam (played by Hayley) and Judy (played by Ruby) come from totally different backgrounds, but they form this incredible friendship. Their characters both go through these arcs and that's pretty much because they've found one another. They help each other through everything. So, absolutely yes.
You've been able to enjoy a really fun run on the festival circuit with Satanic Panic and now you're getting to bring it to theaters and audiences everywhere. How has this journey been for you personally?
Chelsea Stardust: My first movie was direct to Hulu, so it was streaming and never got any sort of theatrical or festival run. And beyond that, I've never been able to afford to go to a film festival outside of Los Angeles, ever. So, being able to do that now was amazing. Because everyone always talks about, "Well, we're going to this festival and that festival," but I could never financially afford to do that and experience that for myself. And I do very much compare making a movie to birthing a child. They're very different experiences, obviously, but you create something that never existed before. You carry it around with you and then when it's ready, you release it out in the world and hope that it does okay. You hope for the best. And the nerves are always there, because at the end of the day you want your movie to be liked and accepted.
So that's something. And as the director, you are with the movie basically until it comes out on hard media—basically until it's on a Blu-ray, you are with it. Whereas everyone else, like your crew, your cast, even the producers go on to do other things, but you stay with the movie until that Blu-ray is out. And then you see all these great reviews and then you'll see a really tough review and someone being super, super critical of things, and it's really hard to not take that stuff personally because you're like, "This is my child. This is my baby."
But you just learn that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and what makes films so great is everyone has thoughts and opinions on it and can talk about it. And for me, the most important thing are the fans, because they make or break the genre. We do this for them, basically, because as a fan myself, I love horror movies. I love watching them. It's the only genre that has conventions all over the United States dedicated to it. How cool is that? I'm so honored to be a part of that, and I basically want the fans to be happy. It’s been an incredible journey with the movie, but I don't think the nerves ever go away completely.