Satanic Panic is a new comedy horror film from director by Chelsea Stardust, but the title is linked to a real-life phenomenon that plagued the world for decades. Fear of Satanists and the occult is nothing new and while the media was responsible for much of the hysteria, Hollywood could also be part of the blame.
Stardust's Satanic Panic follows Sam Craft (Hayley Griffith), a young pizza delivery driver whose life gets turned upside down on the first night of her new job. Upon delivering pizzas to a mansion on the outskirts of town, Sam encounters a Satanic cult on the search of a virgin sacrifice. Sam fits the cult's needs so their leader, Danica (Rebecca Romijn), orders her followers to hold the young woman as their hostage for the grand ritual. The campy horror then follows Sam's attempts at evading the Satanists before her time runs out.
A pizza delivery girl encountering a Satanic cult might be pure make-believe but the panic caused by demonic rituals is anything but fiction. This "Satanic Panic" ramped up in the 1970s, even as early as 1969 with the infamous Manson murders. After the stories of ritualistic killings and Satan worshippers spread to the public, mass hysteria was underway. The fear didn't slow down due in part to the terror caused by the 1973 blockbuster hit, The Exorcist. Claiming to be based on a true story opened the eyes of many viewers in regards to the existence of demons. It also turned the seemingly harmless Ouija board into a sinister device of the occult.
There were also a number of published books and memoirs from self-proclaimed occultists that spread to even the most innocent of readers. Satanism and similar occult practices were presented to be a traditional religion but its reputation took a darker turn in the 1980s. During the Reagan era, the population in the U.S. was growing as was the notion of "social scares." There was the AIDS scare, "stranger danger," and the thought of cults popping up within family neighborhoods. This was also the time when the rise of Satanic ritual abuse occurred worldwide.
There were a number of accusations of child abuse within cults, specifically from those who practiced Satanism. A number of memoirs were published (which were later debunked) detailing the alleged abuse which became the focus of media reports. The fear intensified as parents worried that their children could be the target of the rampant rising Satan worshippers. The allegations took focus in a number of high profile trials in the years that followed.
Satanic Panic is still prevalent to this day but due to mainstream media, the fear is not as intense as it once was. It's possible that the Satanic and occult trend in TV and film has made the public immune since the peak of the hysteria. The Ouija board is now the focus of a film franchise while ritualistic and occultist killers are featured in shows like Mindhunter and American Horror Story. We're even at the point when Satanic cults can be used in a comedic-type of horror films like Satanic Panic or 2017's The Babysitter. This Satanic Panic is still present but it's clear that times have changed.