Overlook Film Festival Review: SATANIC PANIC

Bridging the gap between gross-out horror and young adult fiction.

Are there adults out there in the world that still have sleepovers? I’m not talking sexy sleepovers - I’m talking best friends who get together for a sleepless night of pillow forts, copious amounts of pizza and dusk ‘till dawn movie binging with dabbles at Ouija boards or “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” in-between. Sleepover kids, if you’re out there, let me tell you about Satanic Panic, your new favorite film.

Directed by Chelsea Stardust and written by Grady Hendrix, Satanic Panic stars Hayley Griffith as Sam, a young woman beginning her first day as a pizza delivery driver. When she’s called out to the posh suburbs of Dallas to deliver a small stack of pizzas, Sam finds herself in the middle of a satanic sacrifice in which she is unwillingly recruited to be the starring virgin. On the run from a coven of witches and Satan-worshipers who want to use her womb to resurrect Baphomet, Sam must survive a series of monsters, spells and teenage girls with giant mechanized driller dildos if she wants to survive the night.

You don’t have to be indulging in a sleepover to enjoy Satanic Panic but the movie was positively made for the occasion. Bridging the gap between gross-out horror and young adult fiction, Satanic Panic plays out like the lost book in The Babysitters Club series, ghostwritten by Sam Raimi. The inherent sweetness of Sam, even as she’s covered in gore and attacked by tree monsters, provides the film with a zip and energy that’s lacking in so many modern horror films. Like so many of the young adult books that audiences grew up with, this movie is dedicated to being fun first and foremost and, in that, it succeeds tremendously. It’s also super gross and over-the-top in its violence - so don’t worry about that.

Satanic Panic features a great ensemble cast with Rebecca Romijn as the coven leader whose billion dollar home and blissfully serene lifestyle is all thanks to her dedication to Hell’s denizens. Breathtaking in her beauty and unwavering in her evilness, this is a fantastic role for Romijn and her balance between camp and dread makes me hope she’ll do more villainous roles like this in the future.

Audiences should also look for great supporting roles from Jerry O’Connell, AJ Bowen, Ruby Modine and Skeeta Jenkins, the scene-stealing star of production company Fangoria’s previous effort Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. The film features a murderer's row of great characters actors, all knocking their scenes out of the park.

Whether it’s through imaginative world-building (the movie has a great dedication to establishing the rules and wherefores of Hell and its worshipers), fantastic special effects or its witty script by Paperbacks from Hell writer Hendrix, Satanic Panic is going to leave audiences smiling ear to ear as they watch Sam duck and dodge whatever demonic tomfoolery gets thrown at her.

Chelsea Stardust has knocked it out of the park with Satanic Panic, delivering an absolutely entertaining horror film that will satisfy any viewer’s need for monsters, mayhem and dick jokes. If you’re a fan of The Venture Bros., Mystery Team, Edgar Cantero’s novel Meddling Kids or any similar slice of YA subversionary fiction, you’re going to dig Satanic Panic - a movie that’s made for the teenager that still resides within us all.