Down on her luck and forced into the pizza delivery racket, Sam is having a bad first day at work. After continuously being stiffed for tips, she reaches a breaking point and elbows her way into her last stop of the day, demanding the party pay her what she deserves. The gathering, on the surface, looks like a fancy pyramid-scheme party, which it kind of is (
Death to the weak! Wealth to the strong!), just with a goal of conjuring Baphomet. And Sam is exactly the sacrifice needed to complete the summoning.
Satanic Panic is a fun movie. Demented, but hilarious. The script, written by Grady Hendrix, delivers sharp dialogue, without coming off as a sixties horror parody. Because there is no doubt, Satanic Panic is inspired by the era. Rosemary’s Baby is an obvious story reference point, with colors and cinematography reminiscent of something Mario Bava could have shot during his prime.
Soon, after having been trapped by the cult, Sam manages to escape (after a memorable encounter with the imitable Jerry O’Connell), saves another prisoner, Judi (Ruby Modine, who was excellent in the Happy Death Day movies), and the chase begins.
Through and through, director Chelsea Stardust delivers a well-executed movie with Satanic Panic. The cast, led by Hayley Griffith as Sam, does not veer into camp territory and casting Rebecca Romijn as the high priestess was a stroke of some genius. Arden Myrin – who was also great in the Showtime series, Shameless – hits a perfect game, landing all of her character Gypsy’s wonderfully ridiculous lines
It bears repeating: Satanic Panic is a horror movie in the classic sense at its core, but it has the modern twist of a smart comedy.
Is it perfect? Not entirely, and some of the continuous jokes (like
the code of the Sams) fall a bit flat, particularly when they become integral to the plot. A story element about Sam being a cancer survivor, too, seems shoehorned in, to back one of the movie’s central conceits.
But by all means: Satanic Panic is a very, very good movie. Almost flawlessly executed on the technical side, with a clever script and a great cast. It sits high on my list of last year’s best horror movies.
Bonus Chelsea Stardust watch!
All That We Destroy, which is available on Hulu as part of the Blumhouse produced anthology, Into the Dark. It stars Israel Broussard, who also co-starred in Blumhouse’s Happy Death Days movies.
Bonus Happy Death Day and Blumhouse connection fact!
Stardust used to be Jason Blum’s assistant, so any and all connections to Blumhouse aren’t coincidental.
Bonus satanic panic read!
The House of the Devil is also a very good satanic panic film, though not a comedy.