Satanic Panic is a newly released reference book from FAB Press on one of the most interesting crazes in American history. This is an amazing resource on the cultural satanic paranoia of the 1980s, comprised of essays that tackle every imaginable facet of the decade. It’s at times insightful, hilarious and downright unsettling as it takes you through a look at a time when the Devil was alive and inside everything. Music, movies, you name it, the Devil had a hand in it.
Luckily, this allows for some interesting diversity in the essays themselves, as different authors tackle the titular satanic panic surrounding different themes. Obviously, hard rock and heavy metal music were a huge focus of the time with musicians like Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne being criticized for their satanic imagery, but there were a few subjects that genuinely surprised me—like the fear of daytime TV talk shows and computers.
Of course, as a fan of the genre, all of the most interesting stuff in the book for me revolved around horror movies. While the genre has always been a bit of a black sheep, it has never been as deeply ridiculed and outright shunned as it was in the height of the 1980s. There was a mass hysteria surrounding the genre, from the UK Video Nasties to Gene Siskel’s crusade against slasher films.
However, because I’m so familiar with the way horror was treated during the decade, there were many other things explored in the book that I found surprisingly fascinating. This was surprisingly true of the panic surrounding role-playing games, which was all stuff that I found extremely interesting.
This is something I’ve always been fascinated by and to be able to read through academic, well-structured essays that really break down this hysteria and why it was so prevalent at this time and what exactly people were so afraid of is kind of a dream come true. There are even sections that are more specifically centered around the VHS horror boom of the second half of the decade.
A book like this is not designed for everyone, but I don’t think it necessarily has to be. I’ve always been fascinated with mass hysteria and the cultural panic of this decade has severe echoes of Seduction of the Innocent and the comic book scare of the late fifties. As someone intrigued by the parallels between those two decades—mostly embodied by the return of the Cold War—this book also did not disappoint.
If you’re a fan of horror reference books and are in the mood for something with a bit more of an academic approach—but still a healthy dose of pop culture sensibility—than I think Satanic Panic is definitely something that you are going to want on your shelf.
Satanic Panic gets a lot of mileage out of what would traditionally be considered a niche topic. It proves that there’s a lot of longevity and depth to it and even though it’s not specifically catered to horror movies, it’s one of the most fascinating looks at how people reacted to some of the horror of the time—and a side of ‘80s pop culture in general—that you are apt to find.
WICKED RATING: 8/10