Satanic Panic


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Satanic Panic
"Satanic Panic is one of those films that's a lot smarter underneath than it looks on the surface." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

Satanism! Teenage violence! Giant dildos! Human sacrifice! Be warned - this is not a film for the faint of heart. Should you find yourself begin to panic whilst watching it, just think of two fuzzy bunnies.

That's what teenage cancer survivor Sam (Hayley Griffith) has learned to do to cope with the moments when she begins to feel overwhelmed. She's doing much better now though, and things seem to be on the up. She's recovered her health and has a new job delivering pizza. Sure, she only really makes money off the tips, but everyone's got to start somewhere, right? It all looks good until, pursuing a tip that failed to materialise, Sam wanders into the wrong kind of party and is instantly identified by the assembled Satanists as the perfect virgin sacrifice.

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Despite their grandiose mansion, sweeping robes and elaborate rituals, there's something a little different about these Satanists. They're almost all female. Not cackling hags either, but a formidable group of all-American upper middle class Devil worshippers led by the elegant, scarlet-clad Danica (Rebecca Romijn, clearly relishing the chance to play a character her own age and no less sexy for it). As immaculately manicured as she is steeped in occult lore, she looks as if she's fresh out of a Stepford nightmare and she'll stop at nothing to get what she wants - in this case, summoning triple-headed Baphomet before the sun rises. Woe betide those who stand in her way.

This and the presence of a female director (Chelsea Stardust) shift the usual dynamic more than one might expect. The usual solutions to the virginity problem are proposed but Sam isn't about to let some sleazy guy take advantage of her plight, and when she meets an open-minded young woman it turns out that Satan has a very old-fashioned view of sex. Whilst she's focused on escape, the Satanists are scheming to take power from one another, but there's a refreshing absence of the usual focus on female vanity. What they want for their services to evil is cold, hard cash. What they'll do to get it is at once erudite (the writers clearly know their occult sources) and joyously disgusting.

The disregard for vanity doesn't mean there's any shortage of erotic elements, and Rachel Wilson's costumes, from bondage outfits to kokoshniks, are spectacular. Wolfmen Of Mars contribute a playful soundtrack and there are lashings of gore. Through all of this, however, Griffith maintains a naive yet grounded quality that's perfect for her role, and it's this charming wholesomeness that holds the film together. it's an inspired performance that perfectly complement's Romijn's high camp. Sam's resilient ordinariness makes her easy to root for despite the fact that everyone watching this kind of film wants the bad guys to win at least a little bit so we can enjoy the spectacle.

A fast-paced, cheerily vulgar piece of work that's not afraid to break a few cinematic taboos, Satanic Panic is one of those films that's a lot smarter underneath than it looks on the surface. Screening at this year's Fantasia International Film Festival, it's best seen on a big screen with a good sound system but is likely to find a long-term home in overcrowded pub basements that smell of cheap lager and sweet and sour sauce, where fresh audiences of teenagers will be thrilled by its scandalous scenes and the virgins among them will carefully rehearse their lies. If only occult orgies could be guaranteed to deliver this much fun!

Reviewed on: 22 Jul 2019
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Satanic Panic packshot
A pizza delivery girl at the end of her financial rope has to fight for her life - and her tips - when her last order of the night turns out to be high society Satanists in need of a virgin sacrifice.

Director: Chelsea Stardust

Writer: Ted Geoghegan, Grady Hendrix

Starring: Rebecca Romijn, Jerry O'Connell, Ruby Modine, Jordan Ladd, Arden Myrin

Year: 2019

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: US

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