I always enjoy seeing actors and actresses branch out from the norm and attempt roles that their fans wouldn’t expect them to do. I say “attempt” because sometimes these performances fall flat and said thespian winds up with a black mark on their filmography instead of a hit. Yet sometimes, the result is a cult classic, an unexpected gem that fans flock toward.
But what about those mediocre films? The ones that defy description because they don’t suck, but then they’re not that great either. This is the no-man’s land in which SATANIC finds itself. Actress Sarah Hyland, who fans will recognize from the hit TV show MODERN FAMILY, flexes her acting muscles and tackles the role of a scream queen. And while she does a fine job with her character, the movie itself is confusing, jumbled, and just downright lackluster.
If you are not familiar with SATANIC, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:
SATANIC follows a van full of young, college-aged coeds who are visiting old Satanic Panic-era sites in Los Angeles. They end up following the creepy owner of an occult store home, only to find themselves saving a suspicious girl from an apparent human sacrifice. Only this “victim” turns out to be much more dangerous than the cult from which she escaped.
I wanted to like this film because the premise is intriguing and has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, the writing and the execution of it kills any positives here. This surprises me, too, because the script was written by Anthony Jaswinski, the same guy who wrote VANISHING ON 7TH STREET (which I reviewed years ago), and more recently, THE SHALLOWS.
From a production standpoint, SATANIC appears pretty good overall. The cinematography is decent, the sets look solid, and the film itself looks good onscreen.
The acting is really good, with the afore mentioned Sarah Hyland heading up a nice cast. Joining her is Sophie Dalah, a relative newcomer to the big screen who does an excellent job as the mysterious Alice. I have to be honest and say I didn’t care for the other characters that much as they were annoying, but the actors portraying them did a fine job.
The story is what I have problems with here. SATANIC tries to be several movies at once, but it never fully comes together. The result is a mishmash of genre staples that don’t blend well. **SPOILER ALERT! For example, we are never given an explanation as to what Alice was talking about before she killed herself. Nor are we ever told what exactly is stalking the characters; is it the Devil himself? Is it a demon? Is it a coked-out Muppet? Clarification would have helped the storyline tremendously.
I also didn’t like the “twist” that we see near the end. **SPOILER ALERT! In this scene, Hyland’s character, Chloe, sees a past version of herself and her friends in the van at a stop sign and tries to get their attention. Earlier on in the film, the group sat at that stop sign and saw someone in the building above waving and screaming. This is a neat idea, however it doesn’t fit into the story. It made me think there was a science fiction twist to the supernatural events that were unfolding…and it completely pulled me out of the story.
SATANIC has a decent dose of intensity, but the vagueness of what is happening simply forces it into mediocrity. I would say check this one out if you are a huge Sarah Hyland fan, but otherwise watch at your own risk. The film is available now in a variety of formats, should you decide to watch.