Tag Archives: Ruby Modine

How ‘Satanic Panic’ Captures Adulthood Limbo

Growing up can be difficult for many young people. The journey from kid to adulthood is littered with obstacles meant to help you find yourself and learn to be a self-sufficient individual. Yet sometimes, those obstacles can trap a person in a sort of growth limbo. Stuck between being a kid and being an adult, they go through life without aim or ambition. That is the case for Sam (Hayley Griffith) in the 2019 horror-comedy, Satanic Panic

Written by popular horror author Grady Hendrix (Mohawk)—based on a story concept written by Hendrix and filmmaker Ted Geoghegan—and directed by the wonderful Chelsea Stardust (All That We Destroy), Satanic Panic follows young Sam in her dead-end job as a pizza delivery girl. She’s too sweet and naïve for her own good, which makes it easy for everyone around Sam to take advantage of her innocence. On one particularly bad day of delivering pizzas, getting little to no tips, Sam draws an order from an affluent neighborhood. She hopes the delivery will finally lead to a decent tip, but this pizza will be her last.

Sam delivers the cheesy cargo to a lavish home, only to be greeted by a rude man who stiffs her on the tip. In a rare moment of confidence—sparked by anger and frustration, and not even having the gas money to get home—Sam finds a way into the home to demand a tip. Unfortunately, Sam has unknowingly walked into a Satanic cult meeting. Even worse, the coven just found out their virgin sacrifice is no longer a virgin, and they desperately need a replacement to summon the demon, Baphomet. Upon taking one look at Sam, the entire coven immediately knows she’s a virgin and captures her to use in their ritual. 

The story places a lot of importance on a young woman’s virginity. First, the leader of the coven, Danica (Rebecca Romijn), planned to use her own daughter, Judi (Ruby Modine), as the virgin sacrifice. Knowing the coven’s plan, Judi loses her virginity, thinking that will save her from being used as a human incubator to bring Baphomet into the world. But even though she’s successful, Judi also serves no purpose to the coven any longer. Her own mother discards her, giving her to other members of the coven to be tortured and killed. Sam only becomes important to the coven because her virginity and uterus help them reach their goals. 

Satanic Panic takes an exaggerated look at how society at large places far too much importance on young women’s virginity. We are constantly taught that our virginity is valuable, something that we should hold on to, and “losing”  it should be a profound, meaningful moment. Then, once a young woman finally does have sex, the way society sees her instantly changes. She’s used up—damaged goods—and serves no purpose unless she carries a fetus in her uterus. This burden is very rarely placed on young men. Even if importance is placed on their virginity, if they do have sex, they’re more likely to get a high-five than be ostracized for no longer being a virgin. While this tends to be a point of view perpetuated by the white, puritanical patriarchy, Satanic Panic shows that this frame of mind can bleed into other cultures and religions, even a coven led by a powerful woman who worships the demon Baphomet.

On the surface, much of this film is about Sam trying to survive the role placed on her for simply being a virgin, but it also wades into deeper water as she finds her path in life. Even looking past the fact that she’s a virgin, Sam is a caricature of innocence. She sings songs about giving hugs and avoiding drugs; she is unable to stand up for herself; people take advantage of her at every turn; she doesn’t seem to have a clear plan for herself. Even the mantra she repeats anytime she needs to calm down, “two fuzzy bunnies,” seems more like something a child would say rather than a young adult. 

At one point, we learn Sam spent time in the hospital as a youth after being diagnosed with cancer. While there, she met a boy, and the pair fell in love. They spent their time together writing songs and making plans to travel to Australia. Sam eventually got better and was able to leave the hospital, but the boy didn’t. He continued to get worse until he tragically passed away. After having part of her childhood taken by the illness, then losing the boy she loved, Sam’s life seems to freeze in place. She didn’t get to grow up and experience life the way others her age did. Being sick and so close to death forced her to deal with very grown-up things she just wasn’t ready for. Now, she actually is a young adult trying to make her way in the world, but she still hasn’t processed those traumatic teen years. 

This one fateful night forces Sam to break through her protective bubble. As the coven throws terror after terror her way, Sam has to learn to save herself. She no longer has the help of family, medical professionals, and friends like she did when she was sick. When faced with demonic horrors unleashed by the coven, Sam proves she can be clever and resourceful. Even at the climax of the film, when Sam and her rapidly growing belly are strapped to an altar, she keeps her cool. Sam convinces the demon Samaziel (Maya Perkins)—who is upset the coven is trying to summon a lesser demon when they should be worshiping them—to let her go. With her newfound confidence and desire to live life to the fullest, Sam leaves the coven behind to be torn apart by Samaziel, quits her shitty pizza delivery job, and makes plans to finally go to Australia. 

Satanic Panic is the kind of Uterus Horror film that simultaneously tackles two very different, yet intertwined, aspects of Sam’s journey. On one side, the film examines the way the world looks at virginity. It highlights the burden placed on the shoulders of young women, and how differently they are treated based on the dated notion of virginity. On the other side, Satanic Panic conveys Sam’s much more personal journey of growth and discovery. For years she’s been in a self-imposed limbo, unable to move forward after losing her childhood and the boy she loved. By being thrust into a life-or-death nightmare, Sam learns that she can take care of herself. Maybe even more important, Sam finally realizes tomorrow may never come, so she must make the most of the life she has.