SATANIC PANIC (2019)

June 12, 2019

2019 Oak Cliff Film Festival

 Greetings again from the darkness. “Hail Satan! ” This is definitely the first screening I’ve ever been to where those are the words the director used to introduce her film. Director Chelsea Stardust is quite passionate about her film, and most of the audience shared in her enthusiasm after experiencing this crazy, wild ride of pizza, secret devil-worshipping societies, virgin sacrifices, campy blood-splattering gore, and upper class hobbies.

Written by noted horror writer Grady Hendrix and Ted Geoghegan, the film introduces us to Samantha (an all-in Hayley Griffith). She’s a twenty-something who dreams of Australia, and somehow thinks taking a job delivering pizzas will get her there. She’s in such dire straits that she doesn’t have the 5 bucks she needs for gas in her Vespa, plus her co-workers stick the new girl with the “no tip” deliveries. I assume there really are classless people who stiff delivery folks, and it’s easy to understand why Hayley bangs on the door of a Park Cities mansion after getting the shaft on a 5 pizza delivery.

It’s that knock that transforms Samantha’s bad job into a matter of life and death. Rather than interrupting a high society neighborhood tea, she stumbles into a Satanic cult led by Danica (Rebecca Romijn, X-MEN). And guess what?  It’s virgin sacrifice night! And guess who qualifies?  That’s right … it’s Samantha, our no-tip pizza delivery gal. After a sequence featuring Danica’s husband (Romijn’s real life husband Jerry O’Connell) and one of the more gory and impressive practical effects of the film, Samantha manages to escape the hell-house mansion.

Soon she has teamed up with Judi (Ruby Modine), who just happens to be Danica’s daughter. Judi’s inside knowledge proves quite helpful in finding loopholes for temporary reprieves, although the devil-worshippers stay focused on offering Samantha as their virgin sacrifice to Baphomet. While all of this is happening, there is a power struggle within the coven between Danica and Gypsy (a wild-eyed Arden Myrin), adding one more wheels-off element to this carnival of comedy-horror.

Clearly this is campy, but given the low budget constraints, the film’s effects work very well, and Ms. Romijn, Ms. Griffith and Ms. Modine (Matthew’s daughter) are quite effective in their roles. It’s curious just how incredibly naïve Samantha is for her age, but this movie isn’t really about thinking and analyzing. Instead, sit back and enjoy the wildest ride you are likely to get from a Vespa-driving pizza delivery person (and please tip these folks!)

umm, yeah … I couldn’t find a trailer that could/should be played in public

 

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THE LOOKALIKE (2014)

November 2, 2014

lookalike Greetings again from the darkness. Familiar faces are everywhere in this crime thriller from husband and wife filmmakers Richard Gray (director) and Michele Davis-Gray (writer). The familiar faces make the most of a story with no shortage of characters or sub-plots, though sometimes the movie tries a bit too hard to be gritty and hard-edged.

Jerry O’Connell plays Joe Mulligan, a former basketball star turned club owner and drug dealer. Joe is dealing drugs to pay off his dead dad’s debt to loan shark Luis Guzman, all while keeping his dream of hosting his own cooking show on the Food Network. See, Joe is mostly a nice guy caught up in an ugly world. This world includes his brother Holt (Justin Long) who may not be the straight-laced guy he first appears as, his drug boss Bobby (John Corbett), Bobby’s henchman Frank (Steven Bauer), and William Spinks (John Savage) as the powerful guy who demands a set-up in exchange for a big pay day.

The set-up is on track until one of the freakiest fatal accidents strikes Sadie Hill, the object of Spinks’ attraction. Desperate for the money, the bumbling drug dummies, decide to find a substitute. Enter Joe’s customer and Holt’s squeeze as the titular lookalike. Gillian Jacobs (TV’s “Community”) as Lacey does a nice job making us believe she is just desperate enough to agree to the job. Yes, desperation is a trait shared by most every character in the movie … even the detective played by the always reliable Gena Gershon. The final character of note is Mila (Scottie Thompson), who plays the “girl walks into a bar” role and proceeds to muddy the water in this big plan.  Both Ms. Jacobs and Ms. Thompson flash the ability necessary for more ambitious projects.

Slow-motion and cheesy music negatively impact some of the dramatic moments and the sex scenes … especially an otherwise effective cross-cut between O’Connell and Long as they seduce Thompson and Jacobs, respectively. Still, for a rainy day mindless crime thriller that won’t require much investment, this one is satisfactory and offers a chance to catch up with some of our most familiar character actors.

**NOTE: If you don’t recognize Jerry O’Connell’s name, you might remember him as a child actor … he played Vern in Stand By Me (1986)

watch the trailer: