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‘Satanic Panic’ Had All The Makings To Be The Perfect Horror Comedy

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Genre : Comedy-Horror
Rating : Unrated
Director: Chelsea Stardust
Cast:
Hayley Griffith
Rebecca Romijin
Ruby Modine

 

 

 

Sam (Hayley Griffith) has had a rough go of it as of late. Having to take a pizza delivery job from a skeevy acquaintance she not only encounters some of the worst customers possible but isn’t even tipped well. Getting a last minute delivery, Sam finds herself in the posh neighborhood of Mill Basin. When stiffed on a tip for a huge order she barges into the house to beg for it. What she discovers are a wealthy coven, led by Danica (Rebecca Ramijin) trying to conjure up the demon Baphomet. In need of a virgin they kidnap Sam and leave her with the sleazy Samuel (a hilarious Jerry O’Connell). Escaping into the wealthy neighborhood she saves Judi (Ruby Modine), a would-be sacrifice and Danica’s daughter.

From there Satanic Panic becomes a race against time with Danica and her fellow occultists (including Jordan Ladd and Jeff Daniel Phillips) after the chaste Sam. Portrayed by relative newcomer Hayley Griffith she gives her all into a relatively underwritten role. Griffith brings a charming mix of sweetness and naiveté to Sam despite, more often than not, playing the straight man to the rest of the cast. Her character is only really developed when she is paired up with Judi. Best known to genre fans as Lori in Happy Death Day, Ruby Modine goes all out as the foul mouthed rich kid. Her type A personality not only working well with the more timid Sam but stealing pretty much every scene she’s in. It’d work better if all the performances weren’t the same.

 

 

From the slacker employees at Homerun Pizza to the Satanists plotting against Danica it feels like each performer was told to play their role as big and as broad as possible. Although this works for Modine and a particularly hammy Rebecca Ramijin it becomes exhausting when nobody plays things straight. It is particularly noticeable when the jokes don’t land. Written by Grady Hendrix the jokes tend to be hit or miss with the hits rarely hitting in succession. The jokes that do work tend to require knowledge of the horror genre. Things like horror mainstay AJ Bowen playing against type as the scummy Duncan is only funny for audiences with an intimate knowledge of horror. Which is odd considering how lacking Satanic Panic can be when it comes to scares.

 

On the other hand, Satanic Panic is much more successful when it comes to the gory gags used in the spells. Clearly fans of the genre, Grady Hendrix and director Chelsea Stardust come up with several sordid set pieces. With special effects done by Tate Steinsiek and Chris A Wilks, they come up with several gruesome gags reminiscent of Evil Dead and early Peter Jackson to great effect. Satanic Panic blends humor and the macabre to great effect. Unfortunately we don’t get to see too much of their diabolical creation due to the movie’s surprising lack of thrills. Focusing mostly on the comedy aspects there’s actually very little horror with all of the surprises and kills played for laughs. Sure you don’t go in expecting it to be Midsommar but it is disappointing when you consider all of the horror connections in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

With a clear love for all things spooky and a promising premise Satanic Panic had all the makings to be the perfect horror comedy. But like Sam’s night in Mill Basin things don’t go as planned. While there are some funny bits and some fun performances Satanic Panic settles into a lull where it’s not quite funny enough to be a good comedy and not scary enough to be considered a good horror film either. I definitely think the Chelsea Stardust has a bright future and has a really great movie in her but Satanic Panic isn’t it.

 

Rating 5/10
Links : IMDB

SATANIC PANIC in Theaters, On Demand and Digital now.

 

HORROR

FrightFest 2020 Review: Don’t Look Back

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For the second time in 2020, the Arrow Video FrightFest has gone online after cancelling the physical event that was planned to take place in Leicester Square from October 21-25. Despite not being in person, FrightFest still has plenty of films and scares to be had.

Don’t Look Back is the directorial debut from Jeffrey Reddick who’s best known for creating the Final Destination film franchise. Reddick’s directorial debut has many similarities to Final Destination; in Final Destination, we see a group of people cheat death and so death comes for them. In Don’t Look Back, it’s karma that comes to kill them. Despite the similarities, Reddick manages to show that he’s got a lot to offer in the director’s chair.

Don’t Look Back follows a young woman called Caitlin, played by Kourtney Bell, who is still overcoming her traumatic past when she, and a few others, witness a man being attacked in the park and none of them do anything to stop the attack. The witnesses including Caitlin then start getting targeted by someone, or something out for revenge.

The film begins with phone-footage of witnesses watching people being attacked. Instantly the film starts to make you question what you would do in these situations and if you would just stand and watch or would you be the one to intervene and to help the victims?

Don’t Look Back gets straight into it as very early on we get a scene that gets straight into the action and sets up the trauma that Caitlin then experiences for the rest of the film. Whilst the films does get straight into it at the start, it does go a little quiet for some time. One slightly disappointing thing about the film, particularly when compared to Final Destination, is that there are very few scares in this film. There isn’t much blood or gore or actual horror to it which is a shame, but the film is still entertaining without any of that.

The film plays a lot on the idea of karma ad it’s an interesting concept to play about with although at times it can be a little too on the nose. Sometimes all of this, in particular the film’s opening, and the idea of karma is just waved in the audience’s face far too explicitly and perhaps a slightly more subtle approach would have been better.

Overall, whilst Don’t Look Back isn’t anything too exciting or different and it could do with a few more scares, it’s not bad and fans of Final Destination will definitely enjoy it and have a good time with the film.

2.5/5

Don’t Look Back is in cinemas and available on-demand in the US now

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LFF 2020 Review: Possessor

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London Film Festival is almost over and there’s been a lot of good stuff over the last couple of weeks. The 64th BFI London Film Festival has been all across the UK, inviting you to experience the world’s best new films wherever you are. Twelve days of UK premieres available to enjoy online via BFI Player or in cinemas at BFI Southbank, around London, and throughout the UK.

Possessor (also known as Possessor: Uncut) is the latest film from Brandon Cronenberg, son of David Cronenberg, who’s known by horror enthusiasts as the king of body horror. Brandon has clearly learnt from the best as could be seen from his 2012 debut film Antiviral starring Caleb Landry Jones. Brandon’s second feature film, Possessor premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January and was released in America and Canada on October 2nd. I managed to catch an early preview of it at London Film Festival before it’s UK release at the end of November.

The film follows Andrea Riseborough’s Tasya Vos, an agent who inhabits other people’s bodies through a new technology and in doing so she commits assassinations to benefit her company. But slowly she starts to lose control over the system and finds herself trapped in the mind of Christopher Abbott’s Colin when trying to kill his father (Sean Bean).

Right from the start Possessor is a very gruesome and gory film. It opens with a very brutal and bloody killing that throws us straight into the futuristic world of the film. If the name Cronenberg on the poster didn’t already tell you, within minutes, we know that this film is not going to be one for the faint-hearted. The premise of the film is a little over the top, with the whole idea of inhabiting other people’s bodies and being able to control them. But it’s one that Cronenberg handles with ease and skill. As well as gore.

The film is disturbing but it’s carried out in a stylish manner so that it never really feels too disturbing. If you’re not a horror fan, or if you’re not someone that can handle much gore, then this isn’t a film for you. But if you relish the films of David Cronenberg then you should definitely seek out Brandon’s film.

Whilst the film does have its ultra-violent moments, there’s more to it than that; Andrea Riseborough gives a good performance in the lead role and helps bring life to the main character and the world the film takes place in as well as the bodies Tasya takes over. There are a lot of interesting ideas to unpack in this film and whilst Cronenberg doesn’t really get a chance to deal with them all in sufficient detail, he takes a good stab at it.

Overall, Brandon Cronenberg has created a film that’s a clear step up from his debut film and a welcome addition to the body horror genre that leaves you shocked but also excited to see what he goes on to make next.

3.5/5

Possessor is released in U.K. cinemas on November 27.

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LFF 2020 Review: Rose: A Love Story

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London Film Festival is well underway and there’s a lot of good stuff available now and coming your way over the next few days. The 64th BFI London Film Festival is all across the UK, inviting you to experience the world’s best new films wherever you are. Twelve days of UK premieres are available to enjoy online via BFI Player or in cinemas at BFI Southbank, around London, and throughout the UK.

Before I get into it, I do want to highlight that it’s quite hard to talk about this film without giving it away or spoiling anything. This review will be completely spoiler-free so you don’t have to worry about spoilers however the review might be a little brief or vague as I don’t want to divulge any key points or anything that could ruin the viewing experience for you.

 

Rose: A Love Story is the directorial debut from Jennifer Sheridan and once film starts it instantly hooks you with a very interesting premise. Rose (Sophie Rundle) and her husband Sam (Matt Stokoe) live in a secluded woodland where Rose spends her time writing and Sam tends to vegetables and attempts to trap rabbits. But there’s a deeper mystery to their lives. We don’t really get any backstory for either of our two main characters and yet it doesn’t matter. Right from the start, you have questions you want answered and it keeps you hooked. We don’t know much about what’s going on but nonetheless we are intrigued to find out more.

However, whilst the film opens well and you want to know where it’s going, it doesn’t do a whole lot more than that. It’s a horror film although there isn’t a whole lot of horror in it which is a little disappointing. I was expecting a few more scares from the film than were delivered. I might even go so far as to say it’s also a drama film and it isn’t completely a horror. And it does walk some well-known horror tropes to the point that you can see where it’s going before it gets there if you‘re a horror film enthusiast.

As a result of all this, as well as some pacing issues in the second act, it does start to get a bit dull. The ending is good but not great because I found myself being able to predict where it was going and what was going to happen.

Even though the film was made pre-COVID-19, there are some interesting ideas regarding isolation and cabin fever in this film- and there are even face masks too!

Overall, Rose: A Love Story starts off with a really strong set-up but ends up doing very little with it making the rest of the film somewhat uninteresting and creating a rather predictable conclusion.

2.5/5

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