A pizza delivery girl finds herself targeted by a bunch of upper-crust customers as a potential sacrificial victim of a dark ritual in “Satanic Panic,” a horror comedy that unfortunately fails on both counts.
Samantha, or Sam (Hayley Griffith), is the new kid at the pizza joint run by Mr. Styles (Skeeta Jenkins), and so she’s relegated to the worst routes—the ones known to be tip-free—by her two scummy colleagues (AJ Bowen and Mike E. Winfield). The job takes her to a trio of no-win stops (a frat boy who has her help him move furniture, a woman who asks her to watch a gross act, an old lady who gives her an ugly blouse as a tip) before in desperation for gas money she agrees to do a delivery to Mill Basin, a ritzy part of town.
There she’s not only stiffed but is stuck with a motorcycle that won’t start. To get some help she effectively breaks into the palatial mansion, only to find a bunch of Satanists in red robes, under direction from snooty Danica Ross (Rebecca Romijn) and her shrill assistant Gypsy (Arden Myrin), being prepared for an invocation of the demon Baphomet, who demands a virginal sacrifice to be impregnated.
Since Danica has had to shelve the idea of using her own daughter Judi (Ruby Modine) as the requisite victim—a prologue shows that the girl succumbed to the advances of a boy, only to have her mother break in on them and exact her revenge—she focuses on Sam as a possible substitute. In her desperation to escape, Sam frees Judi from her captors—including a couple of kids and their babysitter—and the two join forces to get away. Mayhem and bloodletting result, some of it pretty incomprehensible, until the sacrificial ceremony.
There’s a shred of social commentary to “Satanic Panic”—the idea that “little people” are taken advantage of by the rich and powerful. It’s the same idea that animated Brian Yuzna’s “Society” back in 1989, but that movie was a dark satire while this one is just a messy, amateurish farce. One imagines that the original concept was more ambitious—the story was concocted by the team of Ted Geoghegan and Grady Hendrix, who worked together on the interesting “Mohawk,” but the former left the project, Hendrix wrote the screenplay on his own, and directorial duties were assumed by Chelsea Stardust, who seems to have little idea of how to deal with actors except to encourage the shrillest, most strident performances possible from them.
That’s especially true of Romijn and Myrin, who are, respectively, arch and frenetic, but Griffith and Modine manage a more easygoing manner as the inevitable “last girls standing” (or being staked out on an altar), though the material is hardly conducive to either being really winning. Veteran Jerry O’Connell appears in a single scene near the start as Danica’s husband, and seems pretty much to be winging it; one can understand his discomfort, since the script requires him to do some awfully embarrassing things over the course of just a few minutes’ screen time.
Technically the movie looks pretty tacky; although the interiors and exteriors are rather attractive, Mark Evans’ cinematography is glossy and overly bright, and Michael Sale’s editing has a choppy, uncertain rhythm. The music score is by a group called Wolfman of Mars; ’nuff said. There are plenty of gore effects scattered throughout the movie, but they’re all of the chintzy hand-made kind (no expensive CGI here), and are more likely to provoke snickers instead of gasps (one, in which a guy has his entrails yanked bloodily out of his mouth, might even raise a guffaw).
“Satanic Panic” is the second film to be released under the revived Fangoria banner. The first was the regrettable “Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich.” That makes two strikes out of the gate, and one wonders how many more misfires even the most undemanding audiences will tolerate from this source.