Michelle (Annie Sorell, CRUEL INTENTIONS 2) survives a horrific car crash and awakes in Queens hospital, under the supervision of Dr Barbary (Angus Scrimm, PHANTASM).

Barbary tells Michelle she was in the car with her father, who died, and that she not has chronic amnesia. He hands her a pentagram and ouija board, both of which were pulled from the car wreck and are now her only belongings. Worse, still he informs her that she has suffered severe facial wounds - he is in the process of restructuring her face, but for the time being she must keep it covered in bandages.

Michelle in the meantime suffers nightmares, which she takes to be fragments of memories coming back to her - her "father" shouting at her in the car, asking why she had to "hurt her" ...

Janitor Cliff (Michael Gaglio, SANDMAN) thinks this bandaged girl is creepy and does his best to avoid her - but that doesn't stop someone killing him while he sweeps the corridor leading to her room one night.

Detective Joyner (Jeffrey Combs, RE-ANIMATOR) investigates the murder, asking Michelle if she saw or heard anything. The answer is no.

Shortly afterwards, Barbary removes Michelle's bandages to reveal her pretty new visage - then tells her she is being relocated to Harmony House, a home for "troubled kids", where she can convalesce until her memory is fully regained.

At Harmony House, Michelle is introduced to three other teens with troubled backgrounds - Larry, Dutch and Dalia (Eliza Swenson, FRANKENSTIEN REBORN). More troubled them though are their foster carers, the genuinely weird sleazeball Bisson (Rick Dean, SPECIES 3) and his sadistic wife Jackie (Diane Goldner, FEAST) - described by one character as being akin to Ilsa ...

All goes pretty shit at the halfway home until it gets worse one evening when Dalia persuades Michelle to try out the ouija board in the hope of jogging her memory somewhat. The night ends in tragedy as Dalia is found with her wrists slit.

Everyone suspects suicide, aside from Joyner who turns up to investigate. Taking Michelle to one side, he tells her this was the way they'd found Cliff too - and suddenly our hapless heroine finds herself as prime suspect.

With the help of Larry and an occultish diary she finds at her dead father's home, Michelle determines to piece her fragmented memories together and discover whether she really is capable of murder.

In the meantime, someone is lurking in the shadows, black leather gloves at the ready, killing off suspects one-by-one ...

SATANIC is ambitious in its storytelling, but not altogether successful. It has an amusingly audacious twist that will no doubt provoke a giggle for many, but is still better than average.

The performances are so-so, with only Scrimm impressing. Combs, it must be said though, is unusually restrained here - and it suits. Sorell is a little two-dimensional in the lead role, possessing even less charisma as the goody-goody-type than Neve Campbell in her SCREAM days. Still, there's a brief shower scene later on which makes you fleetingly thankful that Sorell got the job ...

Character-wise, it's not only Michelle's that is dull. All the teens fill dumb stereotypes, while Combs' detective and Scrimm's doctor seem like little more than excuses for cameos. The best characters by far are those of Bisson and Jackie, and if anything makes SATANIC remotely worthwhile, it's these two.

Having said that, director Dan Golden (BURIAL OF THE RATS) keeps things ticking over nicely, the story roaring past at a furious pace. Scare scenes are competently orchestrated, and the cheap FX are used sparingly, much to the film's overall benefit.

There's an interesting editing technique applied, which is similar to the more annoying moments of many a J-Horror production. It mainly occurs when we're witnessing Michelle's flashbacks, but becomes more frequent towards the end. The result is bordering on incomprehensible at times.

And no review of SATANIC would be complete without making mention of a stupendous climactic fight scene that seemed to be a direct reconstruction of classic Charlie's Angels squabbles ... brilliantly bad.

The disc presents the film in an uncut anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that is, quite simply, gorgeous. Flesh colours are well presented, blacks are solid, colours are vibrant and sharp - lovely.

The English 2.0 audio is a reliable job, offering no great shakes but a consistent problem-free playback. English Hard-of-Hearing subtitles are optional.

Static menus include a scene-selection menu allowing access to the main feature via 18 chapters.

The only extra feature on offer is a 1-minute trailer, which proves how unnecessarily complicated Golden made the storyline.

Forced trailers open the disc, for THE LAST SECT, BLACKWATER VALLEY EXORCISM and DEAD MARY.

A pretty confused horror film with its fair share of flaws, yet SATANIC is slick and polished enough. Worth seeing, if only for that rib-tickling fight scene.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Momentum Pictures
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review