At this years Popcorn Frights Film Festival, one of the marquee films of opening weekend was Satanic Panic. A horror comedy from director Chelsea Stardust, that revolves around Sam, a fresh faced pizza delivery girl who runs afoul a group of upper class suburban Satanists.
Many festival films can be hit or miss so it’s always wise to go in with an open mind and guarded expectations, I was excited to check out Satanic Panic as it boasted a fun concept, awesome poster and a cast that included such known commodities as Rebecca Romijn, Jerry O’Connell and A.J. Bowen among others. As it turned out, despite some great performances by Hayley Griffith & Ruby Modine, Satanic Panic was an entertaining yet uneven film. I couldn’t help feeling like it was missing something that would have pushed it over the edge to something more memorable and satisfying.
The film owes much credit to Griffith, who is instantly likable in the lead role of Sam, the down on her luck pizza delivery girl who bites off more than she can chew when she enters a mansion full of satanists, as she looks to collect the tip they stiffed her on after she takes the undesirable job of delivering to the out of the way location. The Satanists looking for a virgin to help birth the dark lord they worship. Griffith brings a great deal of warmth and innocence to the character and this helps us sympathize and root for her even as she does some things that make you want to yell at the screen for her to do the exact opposite. Leading the Satanist cult is none other than Rebecca Romijn as Danica Ross, who is usually solid in her films, but here for me just gives an okay performance and for some reason just felt out of place in this role and I can’t exactly put my finger on why. It may have something to do with the fact that the show is stolen by her main rival in the cult Gypsy played by the always entertaining Arden Myrin, who delivers most of films funniest moments. As Sam tries to escape the clutches of the cult, she eventually teams up with Danica’s estranged daughter Judi, played by Ruby Modine to try and thwart the cult and it’s plans. The film is at it’s best when Griffith and Modine are on screen together as they have great chemistry and give the most impressive performances in the film. I would love to see more from these two in the future and think both would be great in more genre work. Modine was great in her role on Shameless so her talent is evident. Griffith I could see becoming a fan favorite if she lands more lead roles in horror because she is exactly the type of actress that fans can latch on to as she can carry a film. Special mention to A.J. Bowen who shines in every bit of small screen time he has here.
On the horror front Satanic Panic delivers some fun gore scenes and some weird creature moments, however when it comes to it’s climax it felt like a huge missed opportunity to really let loose with a payoff that justifies everything we have watched prior. I felt like something was missing and that was unfortunately the lasting impression I got from Satanic Panic. There is alot of weird things that get set up but the payoff’s for them all are not what you would hope for. It’s a nice looking film, with some decent humorous moments and I like that they include many ritualistic witchcraft practices within the film that show they did indeed do some research but unfortunately should have explained a little bit more about each of the methods of witchcraft displayed on the screen just to help those not familiar become more entrenched in the world and it’s rules.
Despite my issues with the film, I still think Satanic Panic has enough good in it to make it worth a watch. Particularly for the two leads Griffith and Modine, as well as A.J. Bowen’s small role. It also sports a nice musical score from Wolfmen of Mars who’s music compliments the films tone rather well. I really wanted to like this film and I had a decent enough time watching it, I just feel like there is a lot left on the table as the film has a lot of build up to this final scene and it does not deliver the payoff needed and I would not be surprised if it was a budgetary reason. Had the climax of the film been what I and most of the audience had hoped for (yes we discussed it after) I think I would have been much more satisfied with it overall as I really enjoyed the first act a great deal. Either way, Satanic Panic would still make for a suitable addition to your watch list for the Halloween season.
Satanic Panic hits VOD and Digital HD today September 6th.