Hosting its International Premiere at Fantasia Fest 2019, Satanic Panic is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Fresh off of her directorial contribution to Hulu’s Into the Dark — episode 8, titled All That We Destroy — Chelsea Stardust brings a cheeky charm to the retro-infused, killer coven flick, Satanic Panic.
The film follows a pizza delivery girl, Sam (Hayley Griffith), who ventures into the rich part of town on her route in the hopes that she’ll score some big tips. When she’s stiffed by her wealthy customers, she sneaks inside to confront their frugal asses and finds herself at the hands of a coven in Satanic ritual prep mode.
Produced by Fangoria with a script written by Grady Hendrix (My Best Friend’s Exorcism), the film embraces its classically inspired camp with open arms. The story is a collaborative effort between Hendrix and Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here).
Hendrix’s whip-crack dialogue slings lines like “booty calling Baphomet“ and “triple faced fuck-monster“, delivered with just the right amount of bite. Much like My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Satanic Panic paints the trials and tribulations of a wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time kind of girl who suddenly finds herself way out of her depth, and does so with a light flick of snappy writing to keep it all from getting too dark too fast.
The cast is peppered with recognizable names like Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell, who beautifully blend into the genre mold alongside familiar faces like AJ Bowen (You’re Next), Ruby Modine (Happy Death Day), and Arden Myrin (MADtv). The performances aren’t exactly convincing, but they’re appropriately theatrical for the tone of the film, which settles somewhere between modern raunchy comedy and 70s/80s synth-scored horror. Satanic Panic knows what it is, and leans into it.
Griffith plays her role with honesty and innocence while Modine tears into her quippy dialogue — monologues written with such a fierce flow that you’re hanging on every shit-slinging word. Myrin has an absolute blast with her role as the coven’s covetous right-hand man; her melodramatic outbursts work to turn up the energy of the film. Romijn’s performance as the coven leader is graceful and dramatic, but a lot tamer than you’d expect.
Satanic Panic pays homage to the heyday of practical effects with its own series of prosthetics and rigs. It’s really heartwarming to see the commitment to practical effects, and there’s something oddly nostalgic about some of them. They’re modest and – at times – goofy, but that actually works with the whole ambiance of the film.
That said, at times the film takes itself a little too seriously and doesn’t quite have the confidence to go fully bonkers. It wavers in the realm of light horror comedy, but an occasional dark turn will set a more somber tone. As the action progresses and the situation becomes more dire for our heroine, the easy breezy energy of the opening seems farther and farther away; while this is great for emotional development, it does make the pacing a bit inconsistent.
Despite its inconsistencies, Satanic Panic is really a fun film. It works within its own realm while pushing beyond its borders for moments of genuine comedic absurdity. If you’re in the mood for a modern horror comedy that honors the cult classics of the 70s and 80s, consider this a beast to be summoned.
Satanic Panic is playing as part of Fantasia Festival’s 2019 lineup. For more films, check out their website or keep an eye out for our reviews.