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Satanic Panic (2019) Review

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Satanic Panic is as silly as it sounds, but still boasts a generous amount of gory terror in its delightfully witty descent into Satanism. The film follows pizza delivery girl Sam Craft (Hayley Griffith) as she stumbles upon a Satanic ritual whose clutches expand surprisingly far and wide. After a customer fails to leave a tip, she enters his home to demand payment, but what she witnesses will cost her more than a couple of bucks.

Chelsea Stardust’s feature-length directorial debut is a wicked, fun ride into the depths of hell that wears its tongue-in-cheek nature proudly on its sleeve. The tone is pitch-perfect, and it is a rare-breed of comedy-horror that wholly works. There are plenty of witty one-liners and many moments of the film are laugh-out-loud funny. However, it is also successful in its drive for horror, where blood and guts come fast and quick. Satanic Panic’s deaths are gruesome and creative, ranging from death by a drilling dildo to being shot straight in the neck. These moments work well to balance the film’s lighter moments, and even though this is undeniably funny, it is pleasantly scary.

For those who shudder at the thought of horror CGI will be pleased to learn that Satanic Panic is an homage to ‘80s horror and its love of practical effects. There are gloriously gory moments that are surprisingly icky, including one that sees a man get his guts pulled out of his mouth. Yuck.

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This is a love letter to films like Society, where the horror genre is used to explore and comment on the evil that lurks in, well, society. In Satanic Panic our Satanists are the well-to-do upper class, who reside in their mansions with their 8 bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms. The film literally poses the question: how do you think the rich stay rich? And answers it firmly with humour and horror alike. It’s a film about the horror of struggling to succeed; our Sam wants strives to pursue a career in music, but must settle as a pizza delivery girl who can’t catch a break. It’s a timely satire that will only become increasingly more relevant as the poor grow poorer and the rich become richer.

Satanic Panic is even better for its performances, where Rebecca Romijn especially appears to be having the time of her life as Danica Ross, leader of the cult. She’s wickedly devious and driven, determined to sacrifice a virgin if it’s the last thing she does, and all the while remaining calm and demonically collected. She as some of the best lines and delivers them with bite, perfectly portraying a wealthy devil-worshipper if there ever was one. She is supported by a strong female cast that further includes Happy Death Day’s bad-ass Ruby Modine, a hilarious Arden Myrin and Hayley Griffith, who navigates the moments of horror and comedy with ease.

Satanic Panic is a resounding success that balances wonderfully on its tightrope of hilarity and terror. It’s well worth a watch, especially for its excellent performances and overall witty take on the link between class and ungodly religion.

Check out a clip from the film below.

SATANIC PANIC IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY™, DVD AND DIGITAL DOWNLOAD NOW

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Reviews

Arrow FrightFest 2019 Review: Crawl

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When I first saw the trailer for Crawl I thought it looked like a good time. I’m always keen for more creature features and Alexandre Aja is a more than competent horror filmmaker with a few excellent flicks under his belt. However, I did not expect the scope, heart or heart-racing intensity that would come with it. Crawl is a 5-star film, welcome to my TED talk.

When a father and daughter are trapped during a hurricane, the pair must, not only battle the terrifying elements, but a bunch of alligators that swim into their home during a flash flood. Crawl explores a home invasion of the worst kind as its killers are hungry for blood and bloody quick. You can’t reason with an alligator, they don’t give a shit. All you can do is run, swim or crawl your way to safety and hope to keep all your limbs intact.

Crawl is a blast and a relentless one at that, so strap yourself in because you’re in for a roller-coaster of a ride. Aside from about 15 minutes of set-up, introducing us to Kaya Scodelario’s Haley and her rocky relationship with her father (Barry Pepper), Crawl kicks into fifth gear and doesn’t let up until the film’s final seconds. It’s 90 minutes of non-stop action, drama and nail-biting tension that I wholly wasn’t ready for, but was ecstatic to be experiencing. With Alexandre Aja at the helm, you know, the director of High TENSION, you’d think I’d have been more mentally prepared. But I wasn’t.

The film is fast-paced and furious, excellently combining genres of horror, action and heart-felt drama in one fell swoop. Haley and her father’s troubled relationship feels real and never melodramatic, intricately woven into the film’s structure to raise the stakes, but also to give us characters that we want to root for. Along with their dog Sugar – who is, admittedly, my star of the entire film, despite almost giving me multiple heart attacks – we care for them and want them to survive.

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The scope and use of space is Crawl’s greatest feat. You’ll probably have the impression that the film is going to be small and claustrophobic and, for the most part, you’d be correct. The basement is already an eerie place associated with horror, but with the addition of rising water levels, a raging hurricane outside and the final terror cherry on the cake: murderous alligators, it makes for treacherous viewing.

The location may be mostly small, but Crawl branches out into something bigger and it’s extremely impressive to watch as our characters fight to survive in the most insane circumstances. Their hopes are relentlessly dashed and, all the while, poor Sugar helplessly barks and whines. To describe Crawl as anxiety-inducing is an understatement, because I’m pretty sure I held my breath for a solid 20 minutes.

Crawl is filled with jump scares and moments that are scrupulously frightening, but a surprising amount of heart that’ll only increase the stakes. It’s such good fun in the most twisted way, and I can’t wait to watch it again. Honestly, it’s a perfect creature feature and is more Alien, than Alligator, so dive in and enjoy the monstrous mayhem.

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Reviews

FrightFest 2018 Review: Incident in a Ghostland

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Incident in a Ghostland3Incident in a Ghostland is quite something. As it comes from Pascal Laugier, the director behind 2012’s hard-hitting Martyrs, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that it is a brutal, terrifyingly relentless take on the home invasion subgenre. But it’s more than that, it’s a horrifying look at what happens after witnessing a tragedy and the demons that linger long after.

The film begins when a mother and her two daughters Beth and Vera, move to a new home they’ve inherited. Terror strikes when their home is invaded, leaving the three with scars that will take a long time to heal. Cut to years later and Beth, now a renowned horror author, receives a strange phone call from Vera that leads her to re-visit the home that she left so long ago. What greets her is madness beyond belief, forcing Beth and Vera to confront the demons they hope to leave behind.

There is so much to delve into here, I’m finding it difficult to put into words. Occasionally a film will come along that will shock you into silence, that will hit you full-on in the chest and force you to watch something unpleasant, upsetting and unforgettable. Martyrs was one of those films and this is another one.

Incident in a Ghostland adopts many of the ideas that were present in Martyrs, bringing its audience another difficult to watch story of abuse and psychological terror. Again, the victims of the story are a couple of girls – begging the question of why Laugier possibly hates women so much – played heroically by the young Emilia Jones and Taylor Hickson. As actresses, they are pushed to their limits to bring Laugier’s vision to life, and it is their brave performances that drive this horrific story. You’ll feel every beating and every moment of physical, mental torture that these girls do. You’ll want to cover your ears to shield yourself from the screaming and cover your eyes to stop the brutality, but at the same time, you can’t look away.

How far can this go? How much time is left? Surely, it can’t get any worse? The questions you asked yourself when you watched Martyrs will rear their ugly heads once again, just like the girls’ memories of that fateful night return to haunt them again and again. It’s worrying to see Laugier’s shown preoccupation with the abuse of young females and, understandably, many will see this film as wholly problematic. However, this is not just a glorification of violence or a gratuitous display of assaulted women, but instead, a complex exploration of psychological repression and the important part a mother plays in protecting her children; even if what she does is not always right.

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Laugier’s story is a complex one; below the extreme physical violence and visceral horror there is an emotional focus on mental health and madness. When Beth returns to her sister, she sees that she relives the night of the home invasion over and over again. She believes that she’s still there, causing herself harm as she’s beaten by an unknown force, immediately reminiscent of those early scenes in Martyrs where Lucie is tortured by a demonic manifestation of her own traumatic memories. This film has a multitude of layers, adding to the intensity of the on-screen violence with genuinely heart-wrenching scenes that will have you on the brink of tears.

By the end, Incident in a Ghostland becomes our house of horrors, one we’re glad we survived and one we”d not like to revisit. It’s a harsh watch and not for the faint-hearted, a film that’s difficult to watch, but important for its portrayal of post-traumatic stress and the inner demons that wreak havoc even when the terror is supposedly over.

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