I’ve been excited to watch this movie for some time — it was written by Grady Hendrix, who we interviewed some time back about his book Paperbacks from Hell along with Ted Geoghegan, who wrote and directed We Are Still Here. It’s the first full-length movie from Chelsea Stardust, who was once the assistant to Jason Blum of Blumhouse.
Samantha Craft (Hayley Griffith, who is very endearing) is just trying to make it through her first day as a pizza delivery person so she can continue her singing career. On a trip to the rich Mill Basin section of town, she gets screwed over on a tip — the pizza order itself is strange, with corn as a topping. This brings her into a mansion demanding a tip from the coven that is conducting a ritual, led by Danica Ross (Rebecca Romjin, obviously having a great time acting in this).
The group needs a virgin — Ross’s daughter Judi (Ruby Mondine, Happy Death Day) has already had sex to escape the torment that will surely follow — so they take Sam. As they say, hijinks ensure, as she goes from misadventure to misadventure as she falls in and out of trouble, encountering Danica’s screwup of a husband (Jerry O’Connell, real husband of Romjin), intercoven intrigue between Danica and Gypsy (Arden Myrin, whose face you’ll recognize from numerous great turns in things like Shameless and Insatiable), evil children armed with a strap-on drill, a haxan cloak monster made from a dead husband’s heart, the demon Samaziel, sex with an actual demon and two very fuzzy bunnies.
The film also features appearances by Jordan Ladd (the daughter of actress Cheryl Ladd who appeared in the mid-90’s direct to video Alyssa Milano-starring opus Embrace of the Vampire), Whitney Moore (yes, the Whitney Moore from Birdemic: Shock and Terror), Jeff Daniel Phillips (who gets cast in every Rob Zombie movie), internet personality Hannah Stocking and Skeeta Jenkins (who was memorably Cuddly Bear in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich).
Where a film like The House of the Devil tells a similar story, that movie feels like a 1970’s made for TV movie and as such, feels much more psychological. I’d compare Satanic Panic to a movie like Night of the Demons — a movie made for video rental that hits you with some funny dialogue and isn’t afraid to gross you out, too. It moves quickly and knows exactly what kind of movie it wants to be, as assured as Sam ends up being by the end of the film. It’s packed with great practical effects and enough gore — and a surprising amount of nudity — to please any genre fan.
There’s also plenty of great easter eggs, like the opening scene openly referencing Halloween and the chant that the coven uses when they hex people coming directly from the Charm of Making from John Boorman’s Excalibur.
Perhaps the funniest thing about this movie is that it’s being sold in Walmart, where they’ve decided to omit the word Satanic from the title, selling it as just plan Panic.