Satanic Panic, directed by Chelsea Stardust, is yet another wacky new horror-comedy set in the world of Satanists. Although it ultimately goes too far with its tongue-in-cheek humor to be able to be taken seriously, it is a mostly entertaining and breezy film if you are willing to turn your brain off and embrace the absurdity.
The movie is about a pizza delivery girl who, while delivering the last order of her first day on the job, gets caught in a game of cat-and-mouse when a group of white-collar Satanists hope to use her in their sacrifice. The story, while fun and packed with energy, isn’t unlike most other survive-the-night thrillers, the comedic edge being the only thing that sets it apart.
That said, the humor of the film is annoyingly repetitive. Many of the gags in the movie are repeated over and over again until they aren’t funny anymore, and few of them were particularly original anyway. Pretty much every film about cults and/or Satanists jokes about virgin sacrifice, so there is no reason for that to be the primary source of humor in a movie anymore — the joke is worn out.
The most entertaining moments in the film are the visual gags, but they are few in number and far between. The three or four memorable sequences are those in which the movie fully and unabashedly embraces its inherent silliness, although even those sequences aren’t entirely original. (Perhaps the single best scene in the film involves a drill-bit strap-on, but that is a concept that was already used in American Horror Story.)
The character development is also sadly lacking. Sam does eventually come into her own as a horror heroine, but for quite a while, she’s a rather dumb character that simply lets things happen around her. Unlike the most effective horror protagonists, Sam lacks the ingenuity and wit that is so compelling. Yes, she is likable and charming, but she needed a bit more to be totally lovable.
The special effects during these sequences are surprisingly good, although the cinematography, production design, and editing are distractingly simple and artificial-looking. Although some slack can be given to the movie because of its low budget, that doesn’t change the fact that it is hard to get absorbed into the film’s world because of how cheap it looks.
Haley Griffith does a solid enough job in her leading role, but the eclectic supporting cast frequently steals the scene from her. Rebecca Romijn plays the leader of the baddies, and her performance is admirably goofy and over-the-top. Jerry O’Connell again appears in type as the ignorant dudebro, but he is still fun to watch. The brightest star in the supporting cast, though, is Arden Myrin, who gives an absolutely hilarious turn as Romijn’s sidekick.
Satanic Panic definitely has a lot of charm, but it never fully reaches its potential. Apart from a few funny and memorable gags, this movie sadly won’t have much that will appeal to audiences outside of its core midnight crowd.
Satanic Panic hits theaters and VOD on September 6.