FANTASIA FESTIVAL – ‘Satanic Panic’ Takes Too Long to Establish Its Message

A few weeks ago, I saw a post on Facebook that read: “Remember when we cried as kids and our parents said ‘I’ll give you something to cry about.’ We thought they were going to hit us but instead, they destroyed the housing market and melted the ice caps.” This is a reality that is echoed in Chelsea Stardust’s Satanic Panic, as the tension between Millennials and Generation X drives its horror. But there are many bumps before it establishes its desired course. 

The film follows Sam (Hayley Griffith) on her first day as a pizza delivery girl. Everything about the first half of Satanic Panic is pretty forgettable apart from Sam’s killer leather jacket. And Grady Hendrix’s screenplay has a rough start in the comedy department with some cringe-worthy dialogue delivered by an older coworker hitting on Sam. For the majority of her first day on the job, every male around her can talk about nothing but sex. Her next delivery run can’t come fast enough. She’s sent to the neighbourhood of Mill Basin where she was welcomed by a girl standing on the side of the road dressed like the twins from The Shining. It’s a mysterious, rich suburbia reminiscent of Us, but this time, the crazy white people are Satanists. 

Just to add some creep factor to Sam’s moped not being able to start, it goes from light outside to pitch-black within seconds after Sam delivers her pizza to one of the many Mill Basin mansions. And in typical dumb-white-girl-in-horror-movie fashion, she makes the mistake of breaking into the mansion. Satanic Panic has other cliches like this, but they are utilised in new and creative ways. For example, Sam gets attacked by a monster in the form of a white sheet, taking a violent spin on the stereotypical view of a Halloween ghost.   

Once in the house, we are welcomed by Arden Myrin and her signature squeaky voice as Sam makes her way into a room of seemingly normal-looking “Martha Stewart wannabees.” But while cult leader Danica (played by none other than the original Mystique, Rebecca Romijn) is talking about their plan to fully commit themselves to Satan, all Sam cares about is getting her tips. This whole scenario could have been avoided if Millennials could get good jobs that pay (we’re getting to the point here!). Jerry O’Connell also makes a surprise appearance, but an appearance you’ll soon wish wasn’t included considering he tries to rape Sam so she will no longer be a virgin sacrifice and rips off her shirt while calling himself a feminist.

Sam soon escapes, but no matter where she runs, there’s crazy white people everywhere. But she finds a partner in Ruby Modine’s Judi who has also fallen victim to the satanism infesting Mill Basin. Up until now, the comedy part of this horror has been more miss than hit, but with Judi comes the best dialogue of the whole film. Modine outshines everyone, even Griffith, as she shows some real comedic and dramatic prowess. And, honestly, it’s what she deserves considering her small role in recent horror films Happy Death Day and its sequel. While Modine may be the standout, the rest of the cast doesn’t under-perform. Griffith makes a great final girl to this story, and her scenes definitely invoke the most emotion from the audience as more aspects of her character reveal itself.

In the third act, it becomes clear what the film is trying to say about Millennials and Gen X. Judi says, “Welcome to the world behind the world,” while Romijn’s Danica explains that Millennials will be murdered by their parents who “run the world” and use the phrase “your generation” every chance they get. But while our parents, the rich who control the world, think all Millennials have to offer is “plastic shower curtains and Walmart sweatpants,” Satanic Panic provides an ending that proves just how much stronger the younger generation is. Still, while it’s wonderful to see a message like this conveyed in such a genre, Stardust’s film takes a little too long to establish what it’s trying to say. And as a result, the impact wanes. But in the end, it’s all worth it just to hear Modine say “cooch chute.”

Satanic Panic had its Canadian premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival.


by Sara Clements

Sara Clements is a freelance arts and culture writer and journalism student from Canada. She has written for local print publications, as well as for online publications such as Reel Honey, Much Ado About Cinema, Vague Visages and more. Likes to pressure her friends into watching Paddington

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