New Horror Releases: Satanic Panic (2019) - Reviewed

Chelsea Stardust's latest feature film conjures a magical blend of self-aware parody and masterful homage.  What begins as a searing take down of the American economic divide quickly evolves into a loving throwback to horror films  of the late '70s and '80s, where a common thread was devil worshiping cults and their looming impact on "traditional family values".  Featuring an outstanding ensemble performance (anchored by three strong female leads), obscene practical gore effects, and a lethally funny script, this is one of the year's late surprises that is not to be missed. 

Sam is a pizza delivery driver whose first day on the job goes poorly.  It begins with her getting no tips from a rogue's gallery of Americana-non-grata and ends with her fighting for her life to avoid to being sacrificed to a demon by a coven of white-collar cultists.  While the concept of rich people obtaining their wealth through unspeakable means is nothing new, Grady Hendrix's screenplay sidesteps tired tropes by leaning into them.  Every character is an archetype, and every performer knows it, bulldozing through the material in every scene.  This serves to enhance to devilish shenanigans, as everyone, including the viewer, is in on the joke.  However, the humor is contrasted through some dark sequences of unrelenting violence and uncomfortable comedic critiques.  It is this revelation that makes Satanic Panic so special.  While it generously pokes fun at an over saturated subgenre, it also dares to explores the implications of the past on the present, particularly with respect to the division within 2019 America.  

All of the comedic mayhem swirls around a tightly constructed mythology, most of which is delivered in lightning fast, matter of fact exposition dumps that are perfectly at home within Stardust's world on fire.  If anything, the film's denouement comes too abruptly, snapping the viewer out of the darkness with many questions left answered.  It is unfortunate that this film is debuting in the wake of Ready or Not, as many viewers will view the middle act as a carbon copy (despite it being released at festivals last year).  However, beyond the similarities, Satanic Panic packs more heart and genuine adoration into every frame it sets itself apart with gory delights and hilarious performances.  Rebecca Romijn steals the spotlight with a deliciously wicked turn, however the chemistry between Hayley Griffith's Sam and Ruby Modine holds the ludicrous underpinnings at bay with slick barbs and rapid-fire delivery. 

Available this Friday on Digital on Demand, Satanic Panic is one of the best horror comedies of the year.  Fan of egregious violence, kinky sex, and Antichrist Country Club Cults, will find gem after gem in what is sure to become a cult classic.  If you're looking for the perfect Friday night feature, this is it.  A smart, socially conscious horror romp that never pulls its punches.  

--Kyle Jonathan