Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick…Dan Golden’s Satanic.
Satanic follows Michelle, the survivor of a horrific car accident that awakens in a hospital with her face wrapped in bandages and a case of amnesia. Suffering from terrible nightmares and hallucinations, she begins to believe that she may have done something awful. Something Satanic, even. This lands her in a halfway house pretty quickly, and as people begin to die, she must figure out exactly who she is and what she’s done.
The cast of this film is one of the biggest bait and switches that I’ve seen in a long time. Right in the opening credits they make damn well sure that you know that Jeffrey Combs (ReAnimator, The Frighteners) is in this movie, but I could probably count his total minutes of screen time on one hand, and I wouldn’t even need to use my thumb. This wouldn’t be an issue if the rest of the cast were good, but most of them are pretty awful. James Russo is alright, but his wife doesn’t fare as well, always acting as if she just stumbled out of bed. Annie Sorell stars as Michelle and she’s not even remotely strong enough to carry this movie. She doesn’t really have a lot to work with and the whole amnesia angle gets old fast, but for the main character she’s just unbelievably boring.
Satanic has some serious pacing issues and really takes a long time to get going. They start off in the hospital, and then after about 20 minutes move everything to the halfway house and it feels like the movie just starts completely over at that point. It’s almost as if it has two first acts. There’s a body count, but for the first hour, only two people die and it’s really easy to forget that this is even going on. They focus all of their energy on the mystery of who Michelle really is and whether or not she’s actually some kind of a satanist murderer. Unfortunately any developments in this department are slow and it often feels like the director is just stalling until he can get to the twist.
It’s really a shame that this film is so ungodly boring, because there’s plenty of potential here for interesting things to happen. There’s a killer on the loose, a mystery, and plenty of nightmares and hallucinations. This is the area were the movie falls the flattest. They try really hard to do something surreal and creepy, but every dream sequence only comes off as a total cheese-fest. What’s more, instead of dropping hints and furthering the plot, they get pretty repetitive and tend to be little more than filler. This is not something that this movie needs any more of and in general, the scenes tend to run long and they could have definitely edited the movie down quite a lot. One in particular that sticks out is an extended scene of James Russo smoking pot and watching a horror movie. There’s no reason for it, it adds nothing to the plot, and it goes on forever.
Things pick up when we head into the final act, but then there’s also the twist. A good twist will be surprising, but also make you feel stupid for not predicting it. This is not the kind of twist that Satanic has. This twist is predictable, and still manages to make almost no goddamned sense. The nightmares should have been a great place to drop hints, and if the movie were better written then they would have simultaneously done that and lead us astray, but really all they manage to do is fake us out and deliver information that’s flat out false. It’s cheap and only leads to disappointment.
Needless to say, the film is low budget on top of all of this. The sound mix is poor, the film quality is grainy, and the lighting is atrocious. This feels like a made for tv movie. Combined with the meandering slow script, meaningless dream sequences and low quality acting, we have a film that is nearly unwatchable. The beginning is awkward and the end actively pokes holes into the rest of the film. It could have been fun regardless if the mystery were more interesting, the dream sequences more creative, and the body count tallying up more frequently. As it stands this movie is just way too boring to sit through.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.