A clever collision of flamboyant gore and social commentary that never goes too far with anything save mordant wit.
Barreling into the intersection of horror, comedy and religious sanctimony, “Satan Hates You” is a clever collision of flamboyant gore and social commentary that never goes too far with anything save mordant wit. As the opening title states, “Satan” contains “no nudity, graphic sex or pornographic language,” but there are scenes of “shocking violence and deviant sin related to the lifestyles of those who dwell in Satan’s shadow.” Auds be warned: By watching, you risk “losing your immortal soul.” Smartypants horror fans will take that risk when pic opens.
The Puritan morality underlying so much American horror cinema is just one target lampooned by “Satan,” which was birthed by writer-director James Felix McKenney’s MonsterPants Movies and nurtured by Larry Fessendan’s eclectic Glass Eye Pix (whose catalog ranges from “I Sell the Dead” to “Wendy and Lucy”). Glass Eye’s horror brand is one of low-budget sophistication, and “Satan Hates You” meets the standard: Its characters are personifications of conflicted contemporary values, and their world is insane.
Party girl Wendy (think Never Never Land) is a human receptacle of drugs and lust; as played by Christine Spencer, she’s the classic madonna-whore figure, about to be permanently skewered on Lucifer’s pitchfork. Meanwhile, Marc (Don Wood) — who frequents the same 66 Club patronized by Wendy, her acerbic sister, Holly (Christina Campanella), and their seeress sidekick, Serena (Turquoise Taylor Grant) — is already damned and dangling from the horns of an infernal dilemma: Gay and terrified by the prospect, he allows himself to be picked up by men at the 66 (where’d the other “6” go?), but then feels compelled to murder them violently.
The habitues of Wendy’s neighborhood certainly have their problems, and they’re exacerbated by the two hand-wringing horned demons, Glumac (Fessenden) and Scadlock (Bradford Scobie), who hang around the place, egging on their prospective co-inhabitants of perdition to make the worst choices possible. Fessenden and Scobie, as the film’s un-Greek anti-chorus, are very funny, as is the fact that every TV in view is broadcasting some religious huckster offering salvation for a price.
The counterweight to all this, and the film’s masterstroke, is the performance of Angus Scrimm (“Phantasm”) as Dr. Michael Gabriel, who appears only on Wendy’s TV, or in her room, and whose measured, comforting message of true salvation and divine solace make a viewer wonder if helmer McKenney is out to topple Gantry-esque idols, or is really on a mission from God. You wonder again when the film serves up a scene of borderline-medieval horror that pulls the comedic rug out from under the movie; this and other similar moments are jarring but not entirely ineffective tonal shifts in a pic that otherwise strives to lampoon everything it rubs up against.
These include a fairly hilarious recurring riff on Dungeons & Dragons and its acolytes; the dopey hysteria of Holly, who, after a friend has a drug-induced heart attack, starts spraying the room with air freshener; and the confused righteousness of Marc, who’d rather be a serial killer than come out of the closet.
Production values are adequate, although the rave scenes and underpopulated sense of “Satan’s” New York make the movie’s budgetary shortcomings a little obvious. But solid acting support is provided by horror vets Michael Berryman, Reggie Bannister and Ruth Kulerman, as the meddlesome hotel owner from hell.