Originally announced back in 2015 as Ted Geoghegan’s followup to We Are Still Here, (he ended up making Mohawk instead), Satanic Panic has finally arrived. It’s now the feature debut of Chelsea Stardust. With a script by Mohawk’s co-writer Grady Hendrix, (Geoghegan has a story credit). Is it worth it, or should we demand a discount for late delivery?
Sam (Hayley Griffith) is a desperately broke pizza delivery girl. She’s also still a virgin at 22, (yes this is a relevant fact). Her last delivery of the evening takes her to the wealthy part of town. Stiffed for a tip she decides to break in and complain. Instead of just a bunch of cheap assholes, she finds a bunch of Satanic assholes led by Danica Ross (Rebecca Romijn, X-Men). It seems though their chosen virgin sacrifice got deflowered by one of the neighborhood boys.
Now she’s going to have to team up with Judi (Ruby Modine, Happy Death Day, Central Park), the recently mentioned ex virgin and try to escape. Or lose her virginity to something even worse than Danica’s sleazebag husband (Jerry O’Connell, A Mermaid’s Tale, Stand By Me).
Given the initial buzz surrounding Satanic Panic, I was hoping for a demonic counterpart to Brian Yunza’s Society. No such luck. That film’s dark satire is replaced with over the top caricatures that made me cringe at times. And this film’s band of bickering soccer moms never creates the fear or suspicion Yunza’s villains did.
Which is not to say Satanic Panic is a terrible film, it isn’t. It moves at a fast pace and has some nice touches. There’s a creepy sequence involving family photos and children’s drawings for example. The demonic bed sheet is another inventive touch. And when we finally see Baphomet, he is impressively nasty looking.
However, Satanic Panic is never able to get out of its own way and be the demonic freak show it seems to want to be. I mean why build everything up to a climactic ritual, complete with an orgy, if you’re going to make it that tame? It feels like the film was designed to be a lot more bloody and explicit but got watered down during the development process. The setups are all there, but they go unfulfilled.
This is the second film from the latest incarnation of Fangoria films after the much better Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. Most of the films from all of Fangoria ’s earlier versions were adequate but unexceptional. Maybe it’s a curse of some sort. Because that’s a great description of Satanic Panic. Adequately enjoyable but not the must-see it could have been.
RLJE Films will release Satanic Panic in theaters, on-demand and digital on September 6th.