If you watch enough horror films, or any genre in fact, then you can get a good idea of how a film is going to progress. Time and again film makers use certain techniques and markers to inform the audience of what is going on. The best of them use them sparingly or add a twist, thus subverting expectations. All too often though it is just the same as the last film you saw. Satanic uses one such device in its opening sequence. A person is viewed at a high window. They appear to be banging on the glass. This is shrugged off by our protagonists as just another junkie. Hmm, possibly not.
Satanic follows four friends on their way to the Coachella festival who decide to stop in Los Angeles to check out some of the sights associated with murder and the macabre. After visiting the Tate house and checking into a hotel room where a an infamous murder was committed they make a bit of a wrong decision. After following a Satan worshiper to his coven they see a sacrifice ceremony that shocks them. A lost phone during their escape leads them to meet the intended victim of the sacrifice. Things start to get weird from there on.
With only one recognisable actor in the production, in the form of Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland, it is not much of a stretch to see who is going to last until the final reel. The film is a little too familiar in its set up. Four friends, split into two couples. One set are Goths looking for a bit of occult fun. The other couple is more straight-laced and one even wears a crucifix without irony. It is peer pressure that leads to them getting into a couple of situations that they cannot control. This is where the film starts to fall a bit flat. To be in one situation which scares the crap out of you is fine. But to not learn anything from it and dive back in seems a bit stupid, given that at least one of the group is supposed to smart and careful.
The actors have little to work with in terms of character development. There is no real journey for them and it is just moving from point A to B. A bit more development would have really fleshed out the characters and provided some welcome depth. There is no expansion on certain elements. Why does one wear a cross? What is the fascination with certain aspects of the occult. Why did two of them agree to go on this diversion if they had no interest? Unfortunately none of the questions are answered.
The film is very much a three act structure. The initial set up is standard fare due to aforementioned character development. It is in the middle section that the film works best. The first reveal is out of the way and the movie then goes on to set up the finale. This is where the actors start to come to life far more. The tension starts to increase and there are some nicely done creepy elements added involving crows. The finale then fails to capitalise on the good work of the second act. It falls back on the well worn trope of running about in the shadows while screaming.
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