Review: Chelsea Stardust and Grady Hendrix Create a SATANIC PANIC That is as Bloody As It Is Delightful
The term “Satanic Panic” has existed so long that, frankly, it’s kind of amazing it hasn’t been utilized more. We’re fortunate that in 2019, Chelsea Stardust has directed a script from Grady Hendrix, and teamed up with Cinestate and Fangoria, and it’s the Satanic Panic that we deserve.
Sam is a pizza girl who is struggling to get by. Her passion is her music but that’s just not paying enough, so she takes a gig delivering pizzas. On her first day, after a string of bad tippers and disconcerting meet-ups, Sam meets her wits end when she delivers well outside her zone and gets stiffed. When she forces herself into the mansion to seek out a tip, she finds herself involved in a pagan ritual that is much more than she ever bargained for.
Stardust has one film under her belt by now, the tightly made All That We Destroy, a part of Hulu and Blumhouses joint holiday movie effort. Her experience in the industry is much deeper, having worked with names such as Jason Blum, Ivan Reitman, and Judd Apatow. Looking at that list, it’s easy to see why she was a perfect fit for the film. Stardust has definitely picked up the best of both worlds and is able to deftly weave together an incredibly harmonious horror comedy. Often times, films can’t figure out what genre they want to lean into and often come across as disjointed and scattered. This issue does not exist within the confines of this movie. It’s very clear that Chelsea Stardust has learned from these directors but has also created her very own style, one that is distinct, flashy and bold. Stardust has a firm grip on the film, and knows how to dance the dance between horror and comedy in a way that melds the two together in spectacular fashion; straight to it, Satanic Panic joins the ranks of Evil Dead and Shaun of the Dead and is easily the best horror comedy since Jennifer’s Body.
Horror novelist Grady Hendrix has crafted the screenplay from an idea pitched to him by Ted Geoghegan and it’s easy to see why Hendrix is one of the most bombastic voices in the genre. Having penned fiction such as the brilliant satire Horrorstor and the Stephen King goes punk rock We Sold Our Souls, Hendrix has a pop culture sensibility that makes his content easy to digest and fun to absorb. Amongst the very real terror and gore we are still given access to a ton of fun pop references but also a ton of heart. The characters are fleshed out, especially our three leads, but the ancillary characters all have important roles and spotlight scenes that are often hilarious or brutal, and sometimes both. We are quickly brought into the world of these characters and although we pinball around between them, it’s all a very cohesive journey that will have you laughing and flinching for just the right amount of time in either category. Stardust really knows her stuff and it shows, brilliantly constructing a raucously fun, fast paced laugh fest gore riot and has truly created something that is destined to become one of the greats of our time and one of the best horror comedies ever.
Hayley Griffith is our final girl, Sam, and although she nails the deer in the headlights look, Griffith delivers such a bold and charming performance that you can’t help but root for her from the get go. She often lucks into conquering a circumstance but as the movie continues, more of the character is revealed, and her arc is fully realized by the end. It’s Griffith’s charismatic affability that makes the character of Sam so fun and also a very believable hero. Ruby Modine (Happy Death Day) churns out a wonderful turn as Judi, the daughter of the leader of the coven, and her stern and no-nonsense delivery gives us a second player to root for, a bit more hardened but still someone you can’t help but wanting the best for. Rebecca Romijn is our antagonist and she absolutely steals every scene she is in, she is the lightning rod that draws the current into Satanic Panic, delivering a performance that everyone should envy. Very much the straight man in this comedy bit, it’s her hardened delivery and curt appearances that really allow Satanic Panic to truly blend horror and comedy together in a nigh-perfect marriage. Plus bonus appearances from AJ Bowen and Jerry Connelly, both firing on all cylinders as creepy men, really send this cast over the top as far as excellent performances.
Here’s the deal: there isn’t a lot to not love about Satanic Panic. It has tons of laughs and heart but also really delivers on the blood front. It has a bit of fun camp with scenes of demon fueled orgies, a bit of heart with Sam’s touching background, and a whole lot of glossy, clever storytelling that helps create a film that is worth seeing. Not only that, Satanic Panic is an easy to love horror flick that should be seen by die hard fans and the casual audience alike. Hail Satan, baby, because Satanic Panic is a guaranteed blast and an absolute must see.
RLJE Films will release SATANIC PANIC in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on September 6, 2019.