Samantha (Hayley Griffith) is a pizza delivery girl on her first day, and finding her usual mode of being everybody’s doormat is playing out once again at work, as she is given all the worst jobs, basically the ones where she is extremely lucky if she gets a tip for her efforts. Her friend she secured the job from seems to think he's her boyfriend now, but given the way he laughs at her attempts at singing and songwriting, he is not endearing himself. So when a chance to get away from this and take an excursion to a rich neighbourhood arises, Sam takes it, after all they must be generous tippers, right? But they rich are different, and are holding a certain ritual there...
Satanic Panic was a throwback to the genre efforts of the early nineteen-seventies, when mere mention of Satan could guarantee more profit at the box office, and a coven of devil-worshippers was cheaper to stage than any werewolf or Frankenstein's Monster shenanigans. However, where those yesteryear endeavours did not often venture was into the realm of comedy, and enough time had passed to render the notion of suburbanites giving their souls to Beelzebub in return for all the riches of Hell itself to become both cliché and ripe for parody. Which brought us to this, the debut feature from director Chelsea Stardust, who had earned her stripes on short horror works.
As well as assisting Jason Blum on various projects, he of the claim that he didn't hire women to direct his lucrative productions because he wasn't aware of anyone suitable. Stardust did not sign on to Blumhouse to make Satanic Panic, read into that what you may, but she did team up with Fangoria to create what was a snarky little shocker with an adherence to the old school, both in plot and in practical effects. This was another example of a movement in twenty-first century horror that tended to eschew the CGI of their peers for their visuals, or dial them down at least, in favour of the style of moviemaking that had been more hands on and, frankly, rubbery, with fake blood aplenty.
No surprise, then, that the screenwriter was Grady Hendrix, a horror author who had a great love and knowledge of the genre's history, specifically the boom in the style that had erupted across pop culture in the seventies and eighties. He had even gone as far as reviving actual examples of chillers from that era, first with his tome Paperbacks from Hell which detailed the various subsets of the craze and highlighted the lesser known but nevertheless worthy of attention, and further than that, branded some of these paperbacks under that name and had them reprinted with original cover art and introductions from Hendrix himself to place these efforts in context and illuminate why they were valid.
Therefore you would imagine Satanic Panic was very much identified with that whole scene, or trying to ally itself with them at any rate, and you would not be far wrong in that. Our heroine unwisely pursues a tip from the creepy rich guy who ordered those pizzas, and is subsequently landed in hot water as the Satanists who make up the neighbourhood realise she is a virgin, and since they are one virgin short for their ceremony, believe Sam will do nicely. There were fun turns from the likes of Rebecca Romijn as the cult leader, Arden Myrin as her second-in-command, and Ruby Modine as the sarcastic daughter who was supposed to be a sacrifice until she did what comes naturally to ensure her survival. The men were more or less superfluous to the women's machinations, but that was a big part of the bitchy one-upmanship of the females, no matter what side of the good/evil divide they were on. There were longueurs, but in the main this had spirit and an appealing lead with Griffith - if you think you'll enjoy this, you probably will. Music by Wolfmen of Mars.
[Satanic Panic is available on digital download October 21st, and on Blu-ray and DVD October 28th.]