Sam (Hayley Griffith), a young girl working as a pizza delivery driver makes a stop just outside of her store’s service area, with the hopes of collecting a nice gratuity for her efforts. When she’s shafted on the tip and her scooter is out of fuel, she storms into the sizable home, only to find that a Satanic ritual is going on in celebration of Beltane. The worshippers, led by the icy yet charismatic Danica (Rebecca Romijn), recognize that Sam is a virgin, and that makes her the perfect vessel to bring forth the demon Baphomet. Will this delivery of pizza turn into the delivery of a deity of darkness?
I first got a taste of the work of Grady Hendrix with his novel Horrorstör. The way he was able to blend workplace comedy with supernatural horror, with a helping of the dangers of groupthink added in for good measure, made it one of my absolute favorite books I’ve ever read. His penchant for wild situations and twisted character logic is on full display with his screenplay here, from the skeevy Samuel Ross (Jerry O’Connell), who offers to take Sam’s virginity to disqualify her as a sacrifice, to the unpredictable lady in waiting Gypsy (Arden Myrin).
Rebecca Romijn’s performance as the calculated cunt of a cult leader, Danica, is the highest point of the film. A hero is only as good as the villain they must overcome, and Danica is one of the best villains the horror genre has ever seen. She is uncompromising and unrelenting in her methods, and her put-downs and one-liners are as chuckle-coaxing as they are creative. Even though she is a heel, to use wrestling terminology, you can’t help but appreciate the villainess and her twisted mind.
The gore in the film is nothing short of gut-wrenching, and every kill in the film is sure to satisfy even the thirstiest of gorehounds. From drilldos to soul souffles, the squeamish need not bother with this one, regardless of how they feel about the title of the film (looking at you, Walmart). Horror comedies tend to take the violence and gore to outrageous levels, for better or for worse, but the graphic nature of Satanic Panic hits a balance between stomach-churning and side-splitting like few others before it.
Released under the Fangoria banner as part of the magazine’s resurgence, Satanic Panic is an undisputed heavyweight of modern horror, especially under the horror comedy subgenre. Its limited release may relegate it to being a cult classic, but that ironic label is never usually a bad thing. In any case, go out of your way to see this film. It’s funny, but not cheesy. It’s gory, but not blood geyser levels. And above all, it’s a well-crafted film with some of the best dialogue in the game.