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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Satanic  (2016)
2 Stars
Directed by Jeffrey Hunt.
Cast: Sarah Hyland, Steven Krueger, Clara Mamet, Justin Chon, Sophie Dalah, Anthony Carrigan.
2016 – 84 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for bloody violence, language, brief nudity and some drug use).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, October 4, 2016.
The four protagonists in "Satanic" are quite something. On their way to Coachella for spring break, college couples Chloe (Sarah Hyland) and David (Steven Krueger) and Elise (Clara Mamet) and Seth (Justin Chon) make a two-day pit stop in L.A. to tour infamous murder sites. When they decide to follow a dark arts shopkeeper (Anthony Carrigan) who previously kicked them out of his store, their trail leads them to a secluded home in Malibu where they witness a Satanic ritual about to take place. Not the most subtle of folks, they think nothing of walking up to the house with flashlights blaring, don't bother hiding themselves as they spy on the goings-on before them, and foolishly try to intervene when they suspect a teenage girl, Alice (Sophie Dalah), is about to fall victim to the robed worshippers. Were that not enough, they later agree to meet Alice when she claims to have Seth's dropped cell phone in her possession, and then invite her to stay with them at their seedy hotel room—a room, it should be said, where a Satanist famously committed suicide years earlier. These fools deserve whatever is coming to them.

The feature debut of veteran TV director Jeffrey Hunt, "Satanic" opens intriguingly as an excursion into the dark corners of Southern California (helping significantly is the film's on-location shooting) before ultimately leading in a direction not anticipated by the first half. At virtually every turn, however, the quartet of leads are mind-numbingly irritating, making so many numbskull decisions it is impossible to feel sorry for them when malevolent forces grab hold. Hunt has a way of ushering in a portentous sense of spectral doom and Anthony Jaswinski's (2016's "The Shallows") screenplay isn't without a creepy idea here and there, but good will is undercut by the careless, oft irresponsible characters. With the exception of Chloe, played by Sarah Hyland (TV's "Modern Family"), empathy is in small order for people who willingly step into thoroughly dangerous situations time and again and are awfully slow on the uptake when they are inundated by inexplicably supernatural occurrences. "Satanic" almost redeems itself by the tense, mind-twisting finale, but goes limp in its final anticlimactic frames.
© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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