Most horror films try to spread the idea that your average devil worshiper is some basement-dwelling white dude who lives off-the-grid, has no income of his own, and is repellent to anyone with half a brain unfortunate enough to land anywhere near him. This is a deeply hurtful stereotype that needs upending. It just makes no sense. Who would have the ability to procure ancient tomes, have the time and resources to be tutored in ancient languages and spell casting, and have the power and privacy to go hog wild with the dark arts without any boys in blue knocking down their doors?
Rich people, duh. Whether it be destroying our planet or summoning Baphomet, if an action is going to cause irrevocable harm to everyone on Earth just so a select few can be that much better off, rich people will always be the ones responsible.
Most evil of all, however, is that they don’t even tip.
Director: Chelsea Stardust
Release Date: September 6, 2019 (Limited, VOD)
Sam (Hayley Griffith) is learning this harsh reality on her first day in her first job--as a pizza delivery driver. She takes a ride out to a gate-and-mansion community where she receives no tip, can’t start her moped to drive away, and decides to barge inside and demand something for her service. What she gets in return is a big ol’ dose of the devil.
Danica (Rebecca Romijn) is giving a group of her wealthy neighbors a motivational speech, all “Yes we can!” and “You have the power!” What she’s selling them, however, isn’t some herbal supplement or trip to find themselves in the Ozarks. Nah, they’re looking to birth Baphomet into our living plain so that they can ride in immortal luxury while the demon lays waste to the entire world. They just need a virgin sacrifice, and for this purpose Sam turns out have delivered (ha! ha!) herself into the belly of the beast.
This sets off a gnarly and gross fight for survival that drags Sam through hell, and once momentum builds behind the plot, Satanic Panic comes into its own as a devilish horror/comedy with just enough thematic flourishes to rise above the usual fare.
The first ten or so minutes seeing Sam handle the trials and tribulations of her new job had me pining for another pizza-delivery-themed horror, and her first interactions with our wealthy satanists are studded with some clunky dialogue that doesn’t quite hit the mark--but after a girl attacks Sam with a strap-on drill known as a “killdo,” Satanic Panic finds the right beats, bouncing between comedy, bloodshed, and drama in a satisfying rhythm which leads to a hallucinatory and violent orgy of a climax that’s something like Eyes Wide Shut meets The House of the Devil.
With themes that press the divide between gigging Millennials’ fight for gas money and the entrenched wealth that continues to exploit them, our cult chanting “Wealth to the strong. Death to the weak” strikes the chords and makes Satanic Panic a more prescient form of demonic horror. It has outrageous laughs, bloody effects, the perfect recipe for baking a human soul, and just enough heart to make you care. It takes a little time to heat up, but it’ll sizzle straight to the end.
This also features the first time I’ve seen a witch read entrails in a film. So, that’s pretty cool, too.