Satanic Panic is one of those great modern horror movies that kind of defies categorization. It’s a genuinely funny comedy, a strong story of female empowerment, and a tense, often grisly tale of demonic worship.
Wicked Horror sat down with writer-director Chelsea Stardust to discuss the movie‘s confusing, yet irresistibly intriguing title, first time actors killing it in more ways than one, and whether the future of horror is, indeed, female.
Wicked Horror: So I’m at Frightfest right now, I’m just about to watch Satanic Panic in a couple days, and I’m super excited about it. Without spoiling too much, what can I expect from this movie? Give me the elevator pitch.
Chelsea Stardust: It’s the story of a pizza delivery girl who’s sort of down on her luck. She goes to deliver a pizza to this sort of upscale neighborhood and they decide not to tip her, so she takes matters into her own hands to get that tip and accidentally steps into a Satanic gathering. Chaos and adventure ensues! [laughs]
WH: How did you go about finding the lead? How did you find your pizza delivery girl?
CS: Hayley Griffith! She’s based in New York and we were casting out of Los Angeles. She sent in a self tape and I watched the audition and I just thought “She’s amazing, this is our Sam” but we were auditioning lots of actresses in person, as well as watching self tapes, and I just kept going back to hers. Hayley came very early in the process, maybe during the first day of casting, so we obviously wanted to see a lot of people before deciding. But we just kept coming back to her and eventually we realized, “This is our Sam.” She had never done a feature film before, this was her very first one, and I said, “You know what? I believe in this person and I think she could crush this role.” Sure enough, she did, and she’s a superstar.
WH: For a first movie role, there’s quite a lot for her to shoulder. Were there any difficulties on set once it came time to actually do it?
CS: She handled the role great, and with such grace. She was very patient and, you know what? She had the best attitude, she was so excited, and so enthusiastic. Her character goes through a lot of stuff in this movie and she was 100 percent here for it and committed and she wanted to do the best job she could so, as far as I’m concerned, she crushed it and was a total dream.
WH: She was so professional, you wouldn’t have known if she was finding it difficult.
CS: Yup! Exactly!
WH: You were working from a script by Grady Hendrix [and Ted Geoghegan]. How much input did he have, if any?
CS: Well, when I first read the script, I gave him some notes and I was actually really nervous to do that because I’m such a huge fan of his. We didn’t develop the script together, I wasn’t attached to it or anything like that, so I wasn’t sure if he’d be open to my notes and my thoughts, but he was such a wonderful collaborator. All the changes I wanted to make, he was on board with, and he was just wonderful to work with in general. He was on set — I think he came right before we started shooting, for the table read, so he could hear the dialogue out loud and make some adjustments. And then we sent him a cut of the movie — he was in the middle of a book tour so he couldn’t come to set, but I wanted to make sure he was sent a cut of the movie so we could get his notes and his thoughts on it. He was at the Overlook premiere and he was so wonderful to work with and I just hope he’s proud of the movie. I think he is!
WH: Satanic Panic is such an evocative title. Was it always the title of the movie, or the original screenplay, or was there ever any discussion about changing it to something else?
CS: It was always called Satanic Panic and I was actually shocked to learn there’s only, I think, one other movie called Satanic Panic out there in the world, which is crazy because it’s such a good title. But then I think some people are confused when they hear it, because at first they think it’s about actual satanic panic, from the eighties, and the cult phenomenon that was happening at the time. But obviously it’s not about that, it’s just a great f*****g title.
WH: Yeah I was gonna say I think it’s a little misleading, but not in a bad way, I think people will be pleasantly surprised when they realize what it’s really about.
CS: Right. Totally.
WH: Wolfmen of Mars did the soundtrack and they seem like a very, shall we say, fitting band for a movie called Satanic Panic. How did they get involved? Were they always your first choice?
CS: I’ve been familiar with the band for a while, I listen to them a lot on Spotify and I loved their score for Boogeyman Pop . For this movie, I wanted the score to be a mix of the classic John Carpenter synth and the seventies rock giallo music like Goblin. Who out there can do that? It’s just not something that you find all the time, but Wolfmen of Mars are the perfect marriage of those two things. So I just reached out to them on social media, and said “Hey, you know, I’m doing this low budget movie, it’s with Fangoria, would you be interested in scoring it?” We sent them the movie and they were like “Yeah, we definitely want to do this.” Luke [Liberty] is so cool, we worked together on it, even though he lives in Boston, I would send him cuts of the movie and he was just such a dream to work with, so I’m just honored that my movie has a Wolfmen of Mars score.
WH: It fits the material perfectly for sure.
WH: So, obviously, this is a female fronted, female directed movie and – I feel like I’ve been asking this question for about ten years at this stage – do you think the future of horror is female?
CS: F**k yeah! Definitely. It definitely is. Absolutely. I’m really excited that I’m making movies at this time, because I have so many brilliant female director friends, too, and I’m just so proud to be a part of that. And to see that change happening, to see more and more female directors getting jobs. It’s like Hollywood is finally like “We see you, we hear you” and it’s like great, start hiring us. And it’s great to see Fango and Blumhouse taking that initiative, I’m excited to be a part of both of their families, and just to be a part of this. It’s such an exciting time.
WH: As a female horror fan, too, it’s really wonderful to see. It used to be that every interview I did was with a man, but now I can kind of see women filtering in, which is great.
CS: We still have a long way to go, but we’re getting there, every day it’s changing slightly.
WH: What can we expect to see next from you? What are you working on at the moment?
CS: I’m working on a project written by the two writers of my first project that we’re starting to cast at the moment. I can’t give too many details, but I think we’re going to be shooting that end of this year or early next year. It’s this kind of psychological drama/horror movie based around a serial killer. And then I’m attached to a couple other things too, so we’ll see what happens. I wish I could give more details but it’s a little early in the process, but more horror is in my future.
WH: And more female fronted?
CS: F**k yeah!
Catch Satanic Panic in theaters, On Demand and Digital on September 6, 2019