Revived Fangoria continues to branch out into movie production and distribution. Last year, Fangoria Presents produced the surprisingly decent belated sequel, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. Now as a follow-up, Fangoria Presents recently released horror-comedy, Satanic Panic. With a cast of new and familiar faces, this indie horror joins a growing horror trend of mining growing public dissatisfaction with the ‘wealthy status quo’. So is Satanic Panic devilish fun or does it miss its intended mark?
Samantha ‘Sam’ Craft, struggling financially, starts her first day as a pizza delivery person. Things start poorly for Sam. In addition to meeting some strange customers, Sam can’t seem to scrape together any tips. Desperate for money, Sam volunteers to deliver an order to a rich neighbourhood outside the pizzeria’s delivery zone. But when she gets stiffed on the tip again, Sam crashes the rich customer’s party. Unfortunately for Sam, the customers are a Satanic cult looking to sacrifice a virgin. And Sam may be their sacrifice.
Satanic Panic Mostly Successful in its Balance of Gore and Laughs
Horror and comedy are generally difficult genres to balance. Where some films do so successfully (The Evil Dead, What We Do In the Shadows), other movies fail to balance the absurd with the horrific. In her feature-length directorial debut, Chelsea Stardust largely succeeds in mixing absurdist gore and dark humor. And there’s plenty of absurdist gore. From ‘reading intestine entrails’ to ‘baking’ hearts removed by plunging one’s hand down a neck wound, Satanic Panic comfortably finds itself in the good company of movies like The Evil Dead or The Babysitter. All of this over-the-top bloodletting is dished out with a wink. Though not all Satanic Panic’s humor works, Stardust’s deadpanning of suburban banality with its cult motif nails it most of the time.
Satanic Panic Screenplay Remembers The Importance of Characters
In addition to Stardust’s strong grasp on the material, writers Grady Hendrix and Ted Geoghegan (Mohawk) work in just enough ideas to set Satanic Panic apart from lesser fare. In spite of its title, Satanic Panic doesn’t really plug into the 80’s moral panic in the same way as The House of the Devil. And as mentioned above, not all the bits and jokes work. Nonetheless, the horror comedy’s skewering of the ‘1%’ hits the right notes. Equating the ‘rich and beautiful’ with demonic pacts may seem too obvious. Yet similar to the recently released Ready or Not, it’s a perfect concept for horror that pays dividends.
…the horror comedy’s skewering of the ‘1%’ hits the right notes.
Where Satanic Panic further sets itself apart is its attention to its main characters. Some of the best recent horror comedies – Housebound and Deathgasm, for example – have surprised with affecting character arcs. With their protagonist, Sam, Hendrix and Geoghegan have crafted a likeable character with a satisfying arc. Sam’s a character that should be instantly relatable for younger horror fans. As a result, Satanic Panic has an unexpected layer of depth. Things also get just weird enough at the climax to give this indie horror a fair shot at cult status.
Cast of New and Familiar Faces Deliver On Screenplay’s Promised Potential
Satanic Panic has assembled quite a range of Hollywood names, recognizable faces, and new talent. As cult leader Danica Ross, Rebecca Romijn gives what’s arguably her most fun performance in years. It’s a commanding performance wherein Romijn infuses the dialogue with just the right amount humor. For what’s a glorified cameo, Jerry O’Connell shows up at just the right time to keep things light. However, O’Connell does seem to be trying a little too hard to re-capture his sleazy performance from Piranha 3D. In addition to Romijn and O’Connell, Satanic Panic is rounded out by several familiar genre faces. Jordan Ladd (Cabin Fever), Rob Zombie regular Jeff Daniel Phillips, and AJ Bowen (You’re Next) all turn up in small roles.
Hopefully, we see more of Griffith and Modine in the genre.
But it’s young stars, Hayley Griffith and Ruby Modine, who steal the show. Though she’s largely unknown, Griffith, who plays Sam, turns in an excellent performance. She aptly balances the humor and ‘every woman’ traits the role and movie require. Moreover, Griffith gives Sam a surprising amount of emotional depth. As a result, Sam’s character arc feels satisfying, even for a horror comedy. Likewise, Ruby Modine (Happy Death Day, Happy Death Day 2U) takes what could easily have been a one-note character, and turns in a likable, sympathetic performance. Hopefully, we see more of Griffith and Modine in the genre.
Satanic Panic A Winning Indie Horror Experience
Horror works best when it touches on real public fears and anxieties. Since the 2008 recession and the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement, we’ve seen a growing frustration with income disparity and the wealth ‘1%’. Fangoria Presents’ Satanic Panic joins a growing list of recent horror movies that looking to ‘eat the rich’. While it’s humour is a little scattershot, Satanic Panic is still a fun mix of horror and comedy worth watching. Certainly, Satanic Panic stands out as one of the better indie horror efforts of the year.