In this road trip chiller, four annoying Millennials visit satanic sites in LA. They’re so preppie and goth and YOLO that we hope they get killed. And Satan answers our prayers.
The premise for SATANIC is not bad: skeptical kids seeking occult excitement because duh find themselves terrorized by unseen forces that drag them one by one into another dimension. There are genuinely chilling sequences of mayhem, and an interesting and horrific time-loop conundrum, but the movie is not much more than a one-note diversion.
Chloe (Sarah Hyland) and her jock boyfriend David (Steven Kreuger), as well as couple Seth (Justin Chon) and goth Elise (Clara Mamet) journey into the heart of Los Angeles, taking a two-day detour on their way to Coachella, to seek out haunted hotel rooms, evil ritual sites and occult shops. At one black-walled establishment, they run afoul of the proprietor (Anthony Carrigan, a Hills-Have-Eyes Junior) and decide to tail him to his home in the deep woods (of course it’s in the deep woods) to enact what we presume would be a Millennial version of revenge on him – maybe re-shuffling his iPod mix or something.
Through a window, they witness what seems to be an occult sacrifice on a young topless girl, and interrupt the ceremony to save her. They offer the girl, Alice (pixie-gorgeous Sophie Dalah, the only person who seems to have conviction she’s a devil worshipper), a room for the night, and she turns out to be as creepy as she is hot, dancing sensually, making out with both the guys and the gals, then drawing a pentagram on the hotel wall and joyously promising her rescuers they would all follow her into Hell, which she describes as “a beautiful confusion.”
Then she slashes her own throat and bleeds out deliriously. Now that’s on fleek.
SATANIC is a low-budget independent, set very obviously around Los Angeles, which makes for some dumb plot points that only Los Angelenos will notice: during their adventures, the kids do Hollywood Boulevard and Downtown, and we see them drive the 4th Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River. Okay. Later, they take refuge in a house in Pacific Palisades (about one hour south, depending on whether you take the 101 to the 405 south and get off on Sunset Boulevard, or take Santa Monica Boulevard all the way west and turn north on the Pacific Coast Highway – thank you, The Californians), and decide to flee home after one night. So when they leave Pacific Palisades, we see them “driving home” across the 4th Street Bridge – uh, that means they drove back into the heart of Los Angeles for no reason. No matter where you live in America, if you’re driving home from Pacific Palisades, no route on the worst GPS you’ve ever downloaded will take you back through Los Angeles, especially across the 4th Street Bridge.
I guess Satan made them take the long way home.
Anthony Jaswinski screenplays cliché into a Beelzebub salad, and director Jeffrey Hunt takes time out from his busy schedule directing TV to direct a movie that looks like it was directed for TV. Using practical effects rather than CGI, SATANIC gains points for not degenerating into a slasher flick (although I think that’s more to do with budget than concept).
Just before Chloe is spirited away (meaning that Alice’s mythic realm of “hell” and the pentagram and throat-slashing and the devil are all REAL), her situation turns horrific – the film’s great, impactful moment – yet it is tempered with us pondering on why her fate mirrors a doll she picked up in the occult store, or why the mummified hand from that same store is now resurrected, reaching for her… “So this is where it all comes together,” said the screenwriter in the elevator to the producer, who was only paying attention to his café macchiato latte, and was late for an appointment to frost his hair, so greenlit the movie…
I guess Satan made the café macchiato latte.