According to Satanic, Hell isn’t a place you visit. As screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski pens, Hell is described as a “beautiful confusion.” Yet after watching this devil-worshipping shitshow, I’ve come up with my own definition of Hell. It’s a horror movie where all the action happens off-camera, continuity means squat, and the budget costs less than four General Admission tickets to Coachella. That’s any horror fan’s true Hell, which I found myself living out for an hour-and-twenty-something minutes while director Jeffrey G. Hunt attempted to recreate a slice of LA’s “Satanic Panic.”
Spoiler Alert: He doesn’t.
Sarah Hyland stars as a Coachella-bound spring breaker (Chloe) who stops off in Los Angeles for a quick 2-day tour into the dark world of occult practices. This isn’t Chloe’s idea, though. Her cousin Elise (Clara Mamet) demands the other-worldly pitstop, so Chloe agrees despite her boyfriend Dave’s passive-aggressive protest (played by Steven Krueger). Together, the four tourists (including Chloe’s boyfriend Seth, played by Justin Chon) mosey around LA looking up sites of famous murders until their spooky demon-hunt brings them face to face with a real satanic cult. Jokes and sarcasm soon turn into screams of terror in the face of unspeakable evils, all thanks to a hitchhiker (Sophie Dash) who seemed so harmless at first.
If that sounds like one of the most generic horror recaps known to film journalism, that’s because Satanic could be one of the most generic horror movies of 2016. Or the 2000s. Or forever. Take your pick. Sure, Jaswinski’s script delivers as advertised – satanic shit goes down. A chrome-domed occult store owner turns out to be an actual occultist (WHAT?!), and his creepy covent unleashes something hellish when Sophie Dalah’s character gets voted out. So yes, weird stuff goes on, as promised – it’s just boring, tedious, horribly executed weird stuff.
A note to any aspiring horror filmmakers out there – don’t cut away from your characters just as action is about to take place. Learn from Satanic, where characters don’t die on-screen. Jeffrey G. Hunt cuts the camera away whenever someone meets their inescapable fate, whether they’re locked in a Port A Potty or yelling from another floor of an industrial building. When someone dies, they simply run away and aren’t seen again…except for Elise, who’s trapped in a concrete ceiling? I don’t know. Nothing is explained.
The four main characters get “marked” with little motive, and even less information is leaked when they find themselves being stalked by an invisible entity. Because do you think Satanic has the budget to show a main monster villain if they can’t even fill a pool with dead prop birds and a little fake blood? Yes. CGI crows and animated blood “float” about a backyard pool in the most laughably-rendered “SHOCK YA” moment known to man. Real Birdemic embarrassment, except Hunt is actually trying…
Then there’s the cast of aggressively unlikable, constantly flaking “thrill seekers,” led by Sarah Hyland’s bid at scream queen glory. First you have Dave, an incorrigible douche-bro who spends most the film bitching about how he’d rather be at a taping of Two And A Half Men. Dave’s entire introduction is built on his disdain for their ghastly tour, yet it’s HIS idea to tail the cultists. But somehow Dave isn’t the most unlikable manchild, because Seth is always there to chug a beer, say something skeevy, or ruin any moment by screaming something college-y like “LET’S GET CRUNK!” after shotgunning a beer. So, where the dudes are concerned, you’ve got nothing but a polo-draped Abercrombie dud and an empty alcoholic goth.
Unfortunately, their lady counterparts don’t fare much better. Elise is the “expert” of the crew, yet she’s outed as an obvious poser when true Satanists ignore her appreciation of their “scene.” She acts all intellectual when trying to invade an old Charles Manson killhouse (while looking through a fence that clearly ends right next to her), yet is rendered helplessly inept one Satan’s embrace reveals itself. Then there’s Hyland’s Chloe, who exists only to shriek and scream whenever someone disappears. She only gets the “scream” part down in her bid for “scream queen” regality, as there’s never a moment of strength or independence that makes Chloe anything more than a hot, young victim.
*Waves two outstretched fingers in front of your face* There’s nothing for you here. This is not the horror movie you’re looking for, I promise. Satanic teases this twisted, labyrinth-like descent into Hell, but only delivers Sarah Hyland running through a long, abandoned corridor covered in scribbled satanic signs. Then, just as SOMETHING is finally about to be revealed, we’re met with credits and the whole ordeal is put behind us. A hand. A f#*cking outreached hand is all we get.
Trust me when I say that this is, by far, one of the worst horror films you’ll be subjected to all year.
Satanic is a "What Not To Do" handbook for aspiring horror filmmakers, and then some.