In the end, the panic of the 80s were reveled to be the result of therapists leading "victims" to make such claims through shoddy and now discredited methods. Still, the idea of Satanic cults and demonic influence continue to be used as a scapegoat for society's ills, so one it's no surprise such an idea is used as a plot device in genre works, such as the recent film from Fangoria, Satanic Panic.
The film opens as Samantha "Sam" Croft (Hayley Griffith) starts her first day as a pizza delivery person. She's having a really bad day, as her co-workers make fun of a song she posted online and one of them makes some creepy advances towards her. And, no one is willing to tip her.
She has no idea how bad this day is going to be.
After she's stiffed during a delivery in the affluent neighborhood of Mill Basin, and her scooter runs out of gas, she enters the house to remedy the situation. Unfortunately, she interrupts a Satanic cult meeting ran by lifestyle coach sounding Danica Ross (Rebecca Romijn). It appears this affluencial neighborhood is using the power of demons to become, and stay, wealthy.
Sam's obviously in trouble, having walking in on their secret meeting. But once the cult realize Sam is a virgin, she's captured and awakens to find herself locked in a room with Danica's husband, Samuel (Jerry O'Connell).
Samuel explains his wife and neighbors plan to offer Sam to Baphomet, who will impregnate her and thus be born into this world. He tells her it will be even worse than just being killed by the cultists, and decides to be a nice guy and deflower her before they return. Sam doesn't believe any of this and is busy looking for a way to escape, and is shocked when Samuel strips down to his tighty whities and threatens her with a handgun if she won't let him "save her" from the upcoming sacrifice.
Yeah, it's as creepy as it sounds.
Look, I know this is a horror comedy, and Samuel feels he's saving Sam from a horrible fate. But his sudden disrobing, and Sam's not understanding or believing any of it, gives the moment a real predatory vibe. And Samuel pulling a gun on her doesn't help.
Yeah, nothing creepy about this,
especially how quickly he lost his clothes.
Anyway, the moment leads to what I call "Chekhov's misfiring gun," as any firearm that misfires when pointed at the protagonist will fire when the weapon's wielder looks into the barrel to try and discover the cause of the problem. So Samuel shoots himself and Sam escapes from the house. But for some reason, she doesn't take the freaking gun with her. I mean, who would leave a weapon when they're escaping from a group of people who've abducted them and are going to kill them? I guess anyone in a poorly written horror film.
Anyway, Sam finds shelter in a home by a girl babysitting two young boys. But the noises coming from the second floor lead her to not drink the soda the babysitter offers her. Instead, one of the boys drinks it and dies. As Sam takes out the other boy and the babysitter, she heads upstairs to investigate the noises and is attacked by another girl wearing, and I can't believe I'm writing this, a strap on drill-do.
Think Tetsuo: The Iron Man, and you get the idea.
And no, I'm not posting a picture of it.
Just enjoy the still of Sam pre-drill-do moment.
Anyway, Sam defeats the babysitter and the drill-do wearer, and finds Judi Ross (Ruby Modine, Happy Death Day) tied up on a bed. Intended to be the sacrifice to Baphomet, Judi lost her virginity in a pre-credit scene and was ordered to be killed by her mother, Danica. Once she discovers Sam is the coven's intended sacrifice, Judi teams up to help Sam survive the night and thus escape her sacrifice to Baphomet.
And, as expected, mayhem ensues.
While the film does delivers on the mayhem, the screenplay by Grady Hendrix relies too heavily on sophomoric humor and extremely crude dialog. One such example as when Judi describes the upcoming sacrifice, and why she can't take Sam's virginity. Her lines are designed to make the audience laugh because of shocking, vulgar dialog. But it doesn't work and gives one the feeling that delivering important information relevant to the plot comes was a secondary concern.
Adding to the script's issues are some glaring plot holes right at the start. The cult is suppose to sacrifice a virgin to Baphomet, but with Judi no longer in contention, no one appears to have a backup plan until Sam shows up. I find it hard to believe their second option is just hoping a virgin would just appear.
Look, you seem pretty smart and all. I just can't believe
you didn't have a backup virgin plan.
The script adds some complications to the cult's efforts to recapture Sam with Gypsy (Arden Myrin), a member trying to undermine Danica and take control. But the power struggle just doesn't work. While the film might have intended to contrast the two women, Gypsy comes off as little more than a cartoon villain and one Danica would have slapped down like a gnat. Whether dictated by director Chelsea Stardust, or Myrin's concept of the character, it's hard to take Gypsy's attempt to usurp Danica as a credible threat.
That smirk pretty much sums up Gypsy's character.
The film has some bloody moments, but never breaks into full-on splatstick mode, to the film's detriment. I'm guessing the gore was restrained by the shooting locations, which includes a beautiful mansion that I'm certain the owners didn't want sprayed with Kayo syrup and food coloring. Still, the film would have been funnier had the cast been wallowing in fake blood and gore, rather than relying on constant outbursts of vulgar dialog.
Despite my problems with the script, Hendrix does deliver some good moments. The scene where Sam helps Judi overcome the cult's supernatural attack while explaining why she's a virgin feels real and is surprisingly touching. For the most part, the cast is terrific. And the finale is contains some nice, very unexpected surprises.
Satanic Panic had the potential to be a pretty good horror comedy. Most of the cast is good, with Romijn delivering a standout performance, the film moves at a quick pace, and when the script does deliver some very good moments. But a over-reliance on over-the-top vulgar dialog makes it more ponderous than fun. Chekov's misfiring gun sums up the film perfectly, as it fatally wounds the filmmakers when they look into the barrel wondering what went wrong.
It's hard to dislike a film that includes a Satanic rite complete with a bright
pentagram in the background. I just wish the rest of the film was this cheesy.
If you want to watch Satanic Panic, or purchase a copy of the film, please click on the links below. As an Amazon Affiliate, I'll gain some money with each purchase, which will help keep the lights on in The Shadow Over Portland office.