Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Directed by: Chelsea Stardust.
Written by: Grady Hendrix & Ted Geoghegan.
Starring: Rebecca Romijn, Hayley Griffith, Arden Myrin, Ruby Modine, Jerry O’Connell.
Production Company: Fangoria & Aperture Entertainment.
Things haven’t been going too well for Samantha “Sam” Craft (Hayley Griffith) lately, so in an attempt to earn some money she takes a low paying job delivering pizzas. The low pay shouldn’t matter too much though because surely customers are bound to tip?
Turns out that’s not the case as Sam’s first few deliveries end up being to the stranger part of town where people don’t tip. Unless you count an old sweater from a racist pensioner, or you want to assist with a customer needing a golden shower for her client. If those things don’t do it for you then you’re out of luck.
Fortunately, a delivery order comes in for the more affluent part of town and although it’s outside of the normal delivery zone, Sam accepts the job. Rich folks will tip well right?
Not when the silent dead-eyed gentleman (Michael Polish – Nona) who answers the door to Sam, takes the food and promptly shuts the door on her. Out of pocket and with a moped that won’t start, Sam finds an unlocked door and heads into the mansion to find some help. There she stumbles upon a group of Satanists, led by a lady called Danica (Rebecca Romijn – X-Men, Star Trek Discovery) who are having an issue as their planned virgin sacrifice has run into a hitch after the girl in question went and lost her virginity.
Where will they find a virgin now?
Wait a minute. Who is this attractive, naïve girl that has barged in our house asking for a tip…and what’s that? She busks folk songs that she writes herself too? Definitely a virgin.
Now Sam’s in trouble as the group wants her virginal womb to be the birthplace for the demon Baphomet and the last thing anyone wants is a massive demon bursting out of their vagina.
Satanic Panic is the feature directorial debut from Chelsea Stardust. She’s previously worked as an assistant for Jason Blum (Blumhouse Productions) and has directed a few short films. I’d previously seen her short film Marco Polo that starred Lisa Marie Summerscales (Conan) and Matt Mercer (Contracted, Artik) and thought that whilst a very straightforward story (it is only around 2 minutes long) that is was well shot and directed.
But a 2-minute short film is one thing, how does she fare with an 80-minute feature?
Turns out, she does a great job. The film is nicely directed with no wasted shots to pad out the run time and best of all, no shaky-cam. Chelsea clearly knew how she wanted her film to look and as far as I can tell, she achieved her goals. There might not be anything here that horror fans haven’t seen before but that doesn’t matter when you have an enjoyable film to watch.
The cast is great with Rebecca Romijn nailing the sexy yet exceedingly dangerous role of Danica and Arden Myrin (Shameless, Insatiable) brings a nice portrayal of the inefficient, slightly bumbling determination to her character of Gypsy Neumieir. Best of all though is Hayley Griffith who is wonderful as the naïve Sam. Obviously, a lot of credit here goes to the writers, but she does a great job as that innocent naiveté steadily matures over the movie to make her a more focused and determined individual, but without losing that innocent charm.
It was nice to see Jerry O’Connell (Sliders, Billions) too and although he isn’t in the movie for long, he does an amusing portrayal as he turns up the chauvinism and tries to offer Sam a way to get out of her virginity.
Ruby Modine (Happy Death Day, Shameless) does a great job as well, especially as I was expecting her character of Judi to be an annoying spoiled brat. I mean, she is a spoiled brat, but I really thought I would hate her character and yet she portrays her really well to the extent she combines the bratty rich-kid and sympathetic character very well.
Again, it’s that combination of the writing, directing and casting that work well here. Speaking of the writing. As someone who enjoys reading I'm sorry to say that I've not had the pleasure of reading any of the other work from writer Grady Hendrix, but based on this story, I definitely need to check out some of her novels.
However, all this praise doesn’t mean that the movie is without its faults. There are some underused characters and I would have like to have seen more of Sam’s pizza delivery colleagues and maybe have her boss Mr Styles (Skeeta Jenkins – Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, Summer of ’67) and the rest of the crew turn up to try and help her out as it would have added more characters/victims into the second half of the film and would have given them more screen time too.
There were also a few unexplained things such as the cursed, demonic heart (or whatever organ it was) that the coven makes. They create it, it flies off and then we never see it again. Instead of getting a scene with a weird fleshy, demonic monstrosity, we get a cursed sheet that attacks Sam. It didn’t quite fit together.
Which was a shame as some inventive things going on – death by drilldo (no that’s not a typo) being a good example.
The ending as well, at least for me, wasn’t ramped up enough in the carnage stakes. I don’t want to give away too much here so if you don’t want a very teeny tiny spoiler, skip the next paragraph now.
*Spoiler* See, I’d expect a demonic being to do more than just eat a rabbit and then make people choke or suffocate. There was a chance to go all out here and have the demon get really nasty and it never happened. Which was a shame as the form the demon manifested would have made that all the more fun. *End of spoiler*
So yes, the film has faults, but it also has quite a lot going for it if you’re in the right mood.
Oddly enough, think of the film as being a lot like a pizza.
You’re really craving pizza but you nearly always get the same one. That’s ok, it’s what you like. Sure you might change the odd topping now and again, but you mainly order the same thing. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Sometimes you want that feeling of comfortable familiarity and that’s what has been delivered here.
Sure it’s not the healthiest of meals and it may be a little underdone in places and one of the toppings might not have been as generous as you would have liked but you enjoy it anyway because you were really in the mood for pizza.
And as I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pizza (or as my daughter just told me, “pizza is yummy”) then there’s definitely something here that’s worth you stopping to try a slice.