Satanic Panic finds down on her luck pizza delivery driver Sam getting more than she bargained for when she chases down a weasely creep for his lack of gratuity. Sam soon finds herself facing off against a vicious Satanic cult with sinister plans for her uterus.
Let me start by saying that I had really high expectations going into Satanic Panic. I think Chelsea Stardust is a talent on the rise and I am wiling to watch anything Ted Geoghegan (who gets a ‘story by’ credit here) is involved with. Well, I’m pleased to say that even going in with sky high expectations, I was still struck by just how good this flick is.
Grady Hendrix’s (Mohawk) screenplay is fresh, original, and constantly subverts expectations. Hendrix scripted smart, capable, and relatable protagonists and the antagonists are equally as well written. Nearly every key player in the flick is gifted with at least one incredible one-liner. and thanks to a talented cast of characters and a keen directorial eye, those smartly scripted punchlines come alive with panache.
The script’s (not so subtle message) seems to be that the rich are evil. Maybe not in the literal sense. But the screenplay is clearly taking a few jabs at wealthy suburbanites who have no empathy for the plight of their fellow man. And the film’s cast of characters do a brilliant job of bringing that screenplay to life.
Relative newcomer Hayley Griffith delivers a terrific performance as Sam. She’s the quintessential final girl. She’s smart; she’s resourceful; and she starts the film doubting her abilities and lacking a strong sense of self worth but undergoes a transformation that readies her to do battle with pure evil.
Griffith’s Sam checks all the requisite final girl boxes but the actress brings a vulnerability and fragility to the role that makes the viewer want to believe in her, in spite of the fact that she isn’t quite sure she believes in herself. And if that’s not enough, her backstory as a cancer survivor makes her even more heroic than she already was for standing up to a coven of nasty demon-witches.
Ruby Modine (Happy Death Day) is really in her element as Judi, the reluctant daughter of a Satanist. Her wit and sarcasm make every scene in which she appears even funnier. And her onscreen chemistry with Hayley Griffith is brilliant. Their relationship is both believable and endearing.
Rebecca Romijn (X-Men franchise) steals the show as coven leader Danica Ross. She is wickedly good in a role that I never would have pictured her playing. Romijn leads her clan of Satanists like her life is an episode of The Real Housewives of Hell and she’s the queen bee. The actress shows true versatility in the scene where she vigorously fondles human entrails in an attempt to supernaturally track Sam down. I absolutely believed she was loving every minute of it. Never, for a second, did I get the impression that Romijn was grossed out by the disgusting nature of what was happening. She’s a true professional.
Romijn’s husband Jerry O’Connell (TV’s Sliders) plays the actress’s onscreen husband here and delivers a pitch perfect performance as a lecherous douche. O’Connell doesn’t have a tremendous amount of screentime but he makes the most of it.
Director Chelsea Stardust deserves accolades for her feature film debut. In addition to inspiring brilliant performances from her cast, she also managed to walk the notoriously tricky line between horror and comedy. The film’s tone is pitch perfect. It’s unbelievably gross one minute and balls-to-the-wall funny the next. Right as you think you’ll never get one of the hideous visuals out of your head, something shoot-chocolate-milk-out-your-nose level funny happens. Stardust maintains the perfect balance between legitimate scares and legitimate laughs. As I said in the headline, Satanic Panic Makes Satanism fun. Uh…again. It’s a brilliant blend of camp, wicked humor, clever punchlines, and a healthy amount of arterial spray.
The film’s Blu-ray release boasts great audio and visual quality. No complaints there. As for the special features, the brief making of documentary gives a bit of insight into the actors behind the performances. I wish it had gone a little deeper. At around six minutes, you get a bit of input from each key player but really don’t learn all that much. There are two additional featurettes. One looks at the relationship between Sam and Judi. And the other is a testament to Girl Power. The Girl Power featurette reveals that in addition to a largely female cast and a female director, nearly fifty percent of the crew were female. In a perfect world, that news wouldn’t be shocking. But, unfortunately, Hollywood is often behind the times. Props to the film’s producers and financial backers for finding and showcasing great female talent!
Satanic Panic is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD. I would suggest just buying your copy now. It’s that good.
WICKED RATING: 8.5/10
Director(s): Chelsea Stardust
Writer(s): Grady Hendrix
Stars: Hayley Griffith, Ruby Modine, Rebecca Romijn, and Jerry O’Connell
Release: Tuesday, October 22nd
Studio/ Production Co: RLJE