Satanic Panic, 2019.
Directed by Chelsea Stardust.
Starring Rebecca Romijn, Arden Myrin. Hayley Griffith, Ruby Modine, Mike E. Winfield, AJ Bowen, Jordan Ladd, Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Jerry O’Connell.
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.
Satanists, pizza, and the apocalypse. What should be my new favorite midnighter fails to live up to its riotous title. Chelsea Stardust’s Satanic Panic is sleepover horror that never fully materializes from portals opened by heretic incantations. All talk of Baphomet’s world-devouring, immortal deities massacring innocents, with none of the reciprocal actions viewers will so desperately crave. Ready Or Not is the movie Satanic Panic wants to be when it grows up – a vicious horror-comedy fueled by classism satire that pays off gloriously. A few chuckles exist here and there, but this extra cheesy ‘za-horror barely invokes the name of Papa John let alone Satan’s right hand.
Hayley Griffith stars as a spunky virgin pizza girl, Sam Craft. Her latest delivery route takes her to a wealthy stretch of socialite castles, where she’s stiffed by “Scrooges” on her tip. Sam sneaks back into the cheapo’s house looking for proper compensation, but instead finds a suburban satanic cult led by Danica Ross (Rebecca Romijn). Turns out they’re in the market for a new sexless sacrifice, hence my prior callout. The hard-working teen finds herself captured, then fleeing for her life from an unholy impregnation. All she wanted was a fair wage, now she might birth the antichrist. Bummer.
As Fangoria’s production banner promises (following Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich), there are some legitimate glimpses of nasty practical effects and macabre tastiness. Jerry O’Connell’s doghouse-sentenced husband to Danica gets his time to shine as both a comedic talent (vaping for emphasis) and a desecrated corpse (some elbow-deep yuckiness). Griffith’s befuddled and unprepared bug-eyes convey her character’s survivalist confusion, and can translate to affable heroics. Inerts are ejected, fuzzy bunnies save some innocence, and you’ll do your share of squirming. Induced vomiting and voodoo attacks remind us that Satanic Panic wants to be one mean mama jama of a horror-comedy, but – unfortunately – these perverse graces are few and farther between than necessary.
Alas, Satanic Panic is a bigger tease than smelling fresh pizza pies only to find frozen microwavable packages. Case and point! Ruby Modine’s Judi Ross barricades herself and Sam inside one of many white-collar mansions, complete with salt barriers to keep out underworld minions. She rattles off countless possible invaders who might come to hunt. Homunculi, Hellthrashers, Soulreapers – “Horrible Things Mad Libs” creatures. Very terrible incarnations of the devil who we’d love to see break down Judi’s door – but what do we get? A demon bedsheet. One out-of-nowhere Ent monster (that can die via gunshot?). That’s it?
Stardust’s Into The Dark segment “All That We Destroy” features such a commanding tone, but Satanic Panic cannot overcome the disappointment of broken promises over and over. Act III’s backyard barbeque from Hell finale included. It’s always halfway there in terms of comedy, dark enchantments, and aggressive B-movie desires. Grady Hendrix’s screenplay (story credit to Ted Geoghegan) strives for female-forward, “Heathers but with Belzebub worshippers” entertainment that’s translated sans intended emphasis to screen. Dialogue can become lost in millennial-bashing generics and weightlessness in delivery that drains the energy from otherwise deliciously deranged setups. Arden Myrin as Gypsy Neumieir, for example. Danica’s bitchy rival within her murderous sect who’s constantly trying to overthrow current regimes, but still locked into soccer mom mode. Her’s a recurring structure that’s not sustained past initial jokiness, falling wayside to repetition.
The very fact that I’m so wishy-washy on a film that penetrates the “kill-do” market should speak volumes. Satanic Panic wants to burn the rich, eat their flesh, and piss on whatever remains are left – cruel intentions are A+ grade. Execution, on the other hand, is a bit roughly edited and framed despite some rich “Martha Stewart’s Lucifer Collection” production design. Sometimes scenes feel rushed, taking whatever works best within constraints, and other times actors float through rigid line readings. Rebecca Romijn dressed head-to-toe in bewitching red robes should be a shoo-in genre queen, yet even with undefeatable presence, she’s lost in hysteria that’s never as engaging as it thinks. Same for Griffith’s scooter-warrior, to be fair.
Satanic Panic will divide audiences and is worth the dice roll. Please those of simple pleasures (not a diss!) while leaving others unfulfilled. Chelsea Stardust knows what she can get away with and leans heavily into capabilities – reuse of prosthetic mouth close-ups where “things” are pulled out – to ensure as much gnarliness as possible, which also spotlights some of the film’s issues. Those expecting a kitchen-sink plunge with spunk, attitude, and adrenaline spikes, strap in for something smaller. Doomsday storytelling that worships at an altar many have kneeled before, only partially cooked to sinisterly charred perfection. More like “Satanic Mildly Alarming?”
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd (@DoNatoBomb).