Horror-comedy. Two words which, in isolation, are perfectly enticing. Together, they can be truly terrifying in all the wrong ways, particularly if you’re one of the unfortunate souls who suffered their way through, for example, Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday The Thirteenth. The problem with the genre is that the comedy part tends to distract from the horror part – it’s tricky to make someone laugh and shit themselves at the same time. It’s why you don’t get, for example, sitcom porn. But, done right, horror-comedy can be a recipe for genre-smushing glory: think Shaun Of The Dead or An American Werewolf In London.
Luckily, Satanic Panic is one of the rare films that manages to find the right balance, in that it’s a zippily scripted movie with some great dialogue (mostly thanks to Ruby Modine’s motormouthed Judy Ross, who’s somewhere between a Valley Girl and Zeena LaVey) and buckets and buckets of bloody good fun.
The film – produced by the resurrected US horror magazine Fangoria – concerns two things beloved of many a horror fan: pizza and satanism. Newcomer Hayley Griffith plays Sam Craft (a nod to the ‘90s horror, no doubt), a pizza delivery girl who innocently scooters her way into a satanic ritual in an affluent neighbourhood. There, the red-robed neighbourhood witch meeting decides Sam is the perfect incubation vessel for the rebirth of hell demon Baphomet – if they can catch her.
So, yes, it’s a fairly flimsy concept, but perfect for this fast-paced, 88-minute movie, which finds sheer joy in playing out as many satan-worshipping tropes as possible, from voodoo dolls to haxan cloaks, orgies and a woman wearing a giant drill like a strap-on. OK, the last one’s probably not a trope yet. And the subtext is both plain and pertinent: in the tradition of the brilliant 1989 movie Society, the villains in Satanic Panic represent the one percent, the over-privileged bloodsuckers who got rich leeching off the likes of you, and me, and pizza person Sam. So there’s your clever stuff, should you want it.
Following the likes of 2016’s Raw (directed by Julia Ducournau) and 2017’s Revenge (directed by Coralie Fargeat), first time director Chelsea Stardust here shows that much of the most exciting, subversive and gruesome work in the horror field is being done by female directors right now. Satanic Panic has a cool, retro ‘90s feel and – like the aforementioned Raw – will likely activate your gag reflex once or twice, not least when head Satanist Danica Ross (played with stately grace by ’90s throwback Rebecca Romijn, who returns to the screen in great form) extracts a man’s intestines through his mouth.
And like so many knotted guts, the plot lines tie up beautifully at the end, in a climax that will make you scream and squeam in equal measure. Which, for a daft movie named Satanic Panic, is about as much as you can hope for.
‘Satanic Panic’ is available on digital download now and on Blu-ray™ and DVD on October 28
Director: Chelsea Stardust
Starring: Rebecca Romijn, Arden Myrin, Hayley Griffith
Release date: 28 October 2019