Wednesday, November 9, 2016

DVD/Blu-ray: Awfully annoying characters sacrifice "Satanic"

Satanic (2016)
85 min., rated R.

There is decidedly a high audience threshold when it comes to tolerating or buying into character behavior in horror movies. It's a major problem, then, that the characters in “Satanic" are annoying, mostly selfish dim bulbs who make inane decisions, go snooping where they should not, and deserve the evil that is coming to them. TV director Jeffrey Hunt makes his feature debut with a screenplay by Anthony Jaswinski (2016’s “The Shallows”) and, like anything, “Satanic” had promise. Alas, it doesn't have much to offer, starting with a lot of bickering and ending with a lot of screaming.

Headed to Coachella over spring break, Chloe (Sarah Hyland) and boyfriend David (Steven Krueger) get roped into touring satanic landmarks in Los Angeles by Chloe’s goth cousin Elise (Clara Mamet) and boyfriend Seth (Justin Chon). They have made reservations to stay in a specific hotel room where a female worshipper took her own life, hoping they can contact her through a Ouija board, like you do. Later checking out an occult store and then getting thrown out of it not long after, they decide to follow the scalp-tattooed store owner after closing hours, leading them to what appears to be a satanic ritual involving a teenage girl, Alice (Sophie Dalah). The foursome call attention to themselves and escape to their van, but after Seth realizes he dropped his phone as they got away, Alice gets in touch to return it. It is Chloe’s nice idea to invite Alice, seemingly a runaway with nowhere else to go, to stay with them for the night. Inviting them into a circle, drawing a pentagram on the wall and saying that she will see them all soon, Alice then kills herself in front of the group. Unlucky for Chloe, David, Elise and Seth, the beast already has them marked. In retrospect for them, what was wrong with just going to Coachella?

“Satanic” has exactly two things going for it. The mere idea of kids touring murder sites in Los Angeles is an intriguing one for a horror film, just not this one. Secondly, the climax, set in an industrial warehouse lit only by cell phone lights, finally gets tensely creepy and goes full circle with a twist. The rest, though, is very unremarkable. Aside from maybe Sarah Hyland (TV’s “Modern Family”) as Chloe, there is little reason to work up any emotional investment or worry about these irksome dopes before the bodies start to hit the floor. Even Satanists should have better taste.

Grade: D +

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