Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate."

Satanic Panic (2019)

Hayley Griffith plays a pizza delivery driver on the run from upscale devil worshipers Satanists in the horror-comedy 'Satanic Panic'

“Satanic Panic” sounds like something uttered by Dr. Frank-N-Furter, but you won’t find any sweet transvestites in the sophomore film from director Chelsea Stardust — just a bunch of feminist Satanists (catchy!) looking for a virgin to sacrifice.

With the Fangoria stamp of approval, the horror-comedy is loads of fun as the Real Housewives of Mill Basin slip on fashionable red robes to summon demons while boozing it up. Newcomer Hayley Griffith plays the pizza delivery driver lured into the cult’s lair in what becomes a battle between good and evil as in the recent “Ready or Not” but here the focus is on the laughs.

From the film’s opening sequence that recalls “Friday the 13th” to the animated punk rock introduction, “Satanic Panic” is a throwback to the 80s with plenty of gore and laughs to keep the audience amused. Filmed in the upscale Highland Park-University Park enclave of Dallas, the film takes place in the fictional Mill Basin, nicknamed “S-Town” because the rich people screw delivery drivers out of a tip.

Unfortunately for our songwriting, moped-driving, leather jacket-wearing heroine Sam (Hayley Griffith), her first day on the job delivering pizza takes her to a fraternity where she asked to help move a couch by a frat boy named Sam who invokes the “Code of the Sams” explaining that Sams help Sams out, and then at her second delivery she’s given a smelly ugly Christmas sweater as a tip.

Finally, Sam is asked to deliver five pies to the affluent Mill Basin neighborhood but her coworker Karim (Mike E. Winfield) explains that the last time he delivered pizzas to that neighborhood he had to take part in an orgy that also included frogs in order to secure his $32 tip.

After Sam is stiffed on the tip the determined pizza delivery driver returns to the mansion demanding her money. Unbeknownst to her, she walks into a Satanic cult meeting on the eve of a virgin sacrifice to deity Baphomet.

Rebecca Romijn delivers a fun performance as the cult’s leader Danica Ross but it’s Arden Myrin as the catty Gypsy Neumieir who steals every scene she’s in. As it turns out, the virgin secured for the evening’s ritual wasn’t so pure and it just so happens that Sam is a virgin so you can probably guess what happens next.

Like the recent horror-comedy “Ready or Not” the film becomes a race against time as Sam flees from her devil-worshipping captors. Jerry O’Connell appears in a funny cameo as Danica’s husband Samuel who’s on lockdown after tainting their virgin sacrifice.

He gives Sam the lowdown on her situation, “None of those people are going to tip you because they’re too busy worshiping Satan, and tonight they’re summing Baphomet” to which Sam replies, “Like the band?” causing Samuel to come back with “Like the triple-faced God of Hell.”

Fangoria’s stamp of approval confirms the film has plenty of gory moments that will satisfy horror purists, and we’re talking about old school practical effects that look authentic not the computer-generated-imagery (CGI) that has become the norm in Hollywood. As a kid, I used to rush to the magazine aisle in the supermarket hoping a new issue of Fangoria was on the shelves. I loved looking at all the behind the scenes photos of makeup being applied to Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films and news about upcoming horror films. I grew up worshiping George A. Romero and Jamie Lee Curtis was my heroine. You could always count on Fangoria to satisfy your bloody cravings.

The men in “Satanic Panic” are basically as bright as the parents in a John Hughes film but there are plenty of strong female characters thanks to the screenplay by Ted Geoghegan and Grady Hendrix, the duo behind the supernatural thriller “Mohawk.”

Ruby Modine plays one of those characters as Danica’s daughter who uses every paranormal trick in the book to help save Sam from the clutches of her mom’s Satanic group. Modine first appeared in the critically acclaimed “Memoria” in 2016 and played in Lori in the “Happy Death Day” films. The daughter of actor Matthew Modine is always a pleasure to watch as she tackles each role with an urgent sense of determination.

In a weekend where “It Chapter Two” is going to rule the box office, make sure you seek out “Satanic Panic” for a nice horror alternative that doesn’t make you sit through three hours of CGI effects. Chelsea Stardust delivers an entertaining horror-comedy that isn’t concerned with intricate storylines and plot twists. “Satanic Panic” is bloody fun!

(3 stars)

Now showing at Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra (Houston)

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society.  He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate.

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