Tuesday, March 13, 2012

REVIEW: Satan Hates You

Although it's been out on DVD for a few months, I've just now managed to post my review of Satan Hates You, one of the more recent projects from the MonsterPants crowd. The film is noteworthy for being the first teaming of Angus Scrimm and Reggie Bannister since 1998's Phantasm Oblivion. Both the film itself and this review have been a long time coming with Scrimm first mentioning his performance in the film to us in our 2007 interview with him. Five years later, how does the resulting film rate? Read on for more.

From MonsterPants: "Inspired by films from the golden age of religious cinema such as A THIEF IN THE NIGHT (1972), IF FOOTMEN TIRE YOU, WHAT WILL HORSES DO? (1971) and STALKED (1969), SATAN HATES YOU is a graphic horror film that tells the stories of two individuals and their personal struggles with Lucifer himself. We follow Marc (Don Wood) a homicidal maniac driven by demons buried deep within his soul, and Wendy (Christine Spencer) Marc's polar opposite who lives life fast and hard without a second's thought to the consequences. Their separate paths will eventually cross, but will it be on the road to salvation or the highway to hell?"

Director James Felix McKenney opens his movie on a right courteous note by warning viewers in advance of the unsavory story he's about to tell them of. As far as cautionary tales go, Satan Hates You exists on the outer fringes of the sub-genre and in years past might've easily been banned as a "Video Nasty." Those of a delicate nature may elect not to watch it, the opening screen suggests, but "do so at the risk of losing [their] immortal soul!" One part love letter, two parts spoof, Satan Hates You is a rollicking fun horror-comedy without reverence or restraint.

As main characters Marc and Wendy travel down their dark and sinful paths, they're followed by a pair of flamboyant demons in red smoking jackets - Glumac (Larry Fessenden) and Scalock (Bradford Scobie). It's up to these devilish imps to make sure Marc and Wendy succumb to every possible temptation they encounter, which they most often do. Fessenden and Scobie are hilarious in their roles and their antics make for some of the most fun moments in the film. As McKenney takes the audience to the edge (and then far outside) of their comfort zones with this stinging satire of Christian scare-flix, you'll most likely find yourself thankful for the film's more comedic elements like Glumac and Scalock. The balance here between the darkly funny and the truly horrifying is a careful one.

Satan Hates You is exceptionally well cast, which shouldn't surprise anyone coming from the MonsterPants folks. It's terrific to see regulars Don Wood (who appeared with Scrimm in The Off Season) and Christine Spencer (who appeared with Scrimm in Automatons) back before the cameras so prominently. Genre vet Debbie Rochon puts in a good turn as the bible-toting Tina while fellow genre titan Michael Berryman and funny woman Ruth Kulerman play nosey, holier-than-thou hotel proprietors. Brenda Cooney of Automatons and I Sell the Dead appears briefly as a witch as does the latter film's director, Glenn McQuaid, in a blink-and-you'll miss it cameo.

And what of our Phantasm favorites, Bannister and Scrimm? They're here in fine form, both receiving a fair amount of screentime. Bannister exudes his usual charm in his scenes as Mickey, enabling bartender to Marc. As with most of Bannister's roles and the actor himself, you leave the film really wanting to have a few drinks with Mickey. Scrimm appears as Doctor Michael Gabriel, an honest man of the cloth amid so many phony televangelists. He delivers scripture with such wholehearted believability that you have to wonder if he didn't miss his true calling in life. In a production as irreverent as Satan Hates You, Scrimm's big scene near film's end with Christine Spencer allows for an incredibly poignant moment sure to be remembered. That such a quiet and inspired scene is preceded by an hour of unrestrained madness only makes its impact that much greater. In the context of his career, Scrimm's pastoral performance as Doctor Gabriel will certainly rank among his best.

If you're a Phantasm fan looking to enjoy Bannister and Scrimm together in something else, this is a great film to turn to so long as you check your inhibitions at the door. Buy the ticket, take the ride - just know what kind of tongue-in-cheek mischief you're getting yourself into. If you can manage to endure Satan Hates You through to the end (and past that one scene.... you'll know it when you see it), I'm sure you'll enjoy it. And as a bonus, your soul will be saved from eternal damnation. For more information, visit the film's official website.

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