A group of girls meet three guys at a metal concert. The panic will be Satanic.
Welcome to the ‘80s, where the Satanic Panic is in full swing. Anything with five points is going to warp fragile young minds and any loud music with heavy distortion is a threat to society itself. At least that’s what the televangelists, like John Henry Butler (Johnny Knoxville), say. It’s July of 1988, and three girls, Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), Val (Maddie Hasson), and Bev (Amy Forsyth) are heading to a heavy metal concert. When they stop at a store on the way, they hear that there is a national society of Satanists who have been abducting and sacrificing young people for their dark ends. At the show, the three girls meet a group of rock fans, Ivan (Austin Swift), Kovacs (Logan Miller), and Mark (Keean Johnson). The girls agree to head back to Alexis’s empty house with the guys, but the trio soon comes to regret it when a game of Never Have I Ever goes out of control.
I cannot do this review without a few spoilers, so you’ve been warned. If you really want to go into this film blind, just know that the movie is fairly average. It has some good points, particularly the acting by the lead girls and the kills, so if you are a true horror fan, you’ll probably enjoy it, but the pacing and the dialogue are not great. It has a single big element that it really clings to, and it’s a solid one, but other than that it can’t quite hold your focus for the whole running time. I found it constantly having overly tropey moments just to keep some momentum going. There are better horror movies, there are better horror movies with this film’s particular slant, and there was not enough of Johnny Knoxville as a crazy preacher. However, it’s almost worth watching just to see Daddario’s performance. Now for the banner.
***** SOME SPOILERS AHEAD*****
This movie is a take-down of the Satanic Panic, which unfortunately stopped roughly 25 years ago, making this not the most timely of commentaries. Moreover, they didn’t really update the theme enough to make it solidly applicable to the modern US, which is a bit disappointing because that would have been so sweet to watch. The killers, very early in the movie (maybe too early), are revealed not to be actual Satanists, but Christian Fundamentalists who are committing fake Satanic sacrifices in order to inflame the panic and gain more followers for their fellowship. Given that, thirty years later, there remain almost no proven cases of actual Satanic ritual killings compared to the huge number which were claimed by rural communities in the 1990s, it is actually more realistic to have crazy power-hungry people faking it than for there to actually be a national Satanic Cult murdering people.
The thing that really kills this movie is that, like I said, the reveal happens pretty early in the film. If you’re going to start with something like a Christian false flag operation, you really need to keep pushing up the crazy, but the film just kind of limps forward. Our victims get trapped in a cupboard for most of the film and other parties just kind of stumble into the building in order to quickly be killed off or to do a quick reveal that was obvious already. That’s a big part of the third act’s failings: The foreshadowing in the first act was too heavy. If you’d shifted the reveal that the Satanists were fake until the beginning of the third act, then you still would have the impact of that reveal hitting the audience and they might not have already figured the full extent of it out.
I will say that I did approve of the subversion of having the women being the killers rather than the men. By having us follow the three girls for a while before the movie actually gets going, they do seem to be the typical victims for this kind of slasher. Any of them could have been revealed to be a final girl pretty easily, although it leaned towards Beverly early on. The subversion that I was expecting originally was that the guys weren’t the killers, but the killers were a completely different group that would be hunting the six, so when the big reveal happens, I was definitely down for it. Daddario’s absolute batsh*t craziness as Alexis made for a pretty fun and almost believable psychotic killer, and Beverly’s hesitation towards what they were doing came off as genuine in the film.
Overall, though, the pacing and the dialogue just weren’t great. This film is for big time horror fans, but the average moviegoer will probably be a bit bored before the third act.
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