Soho Horror: Satranic Panic (2023)

Director: Alice Maio Mackay

Running Time: 80 Minutes

Starring: Cassie Hamilton, Zarif, Lisa Fanto, Chris Asimos

Marking her fourth feature, co-writer/director Alice Maio Mackay follows the tremendous T Blockers and the resonant Bad Girl Boogey for a demon hunting road movie. The story follows drag performer Aria (Cassie Hamilton) and aspiring comic-book artist Jay (Zarif), who are both grieving the murdered Max - Jay's boyfriend and Aria's best friend.

Piecing together their trauma, the pair believe that a satanic cult were responsible for Max's murder. Emboldening these suspicions is a demonic attack, which sets the pair on a journey to stop the satanic cult sending these demons. What unfolds combines a road trip with drag show performances and demon hunting, while the pair also work through their grief.

The reason they can expose the demons is due to Aria's recently developed ability, comparing the sensation of one's presence to her previous dysphoria. Hamilton effectively brings alive this character who expresses herself through song, while tackling fear with a sense of humour and flattery as an attempt at defusing the situation. She falls for the demon-killing Nell (Lisa Fanto), although her sudden appearance leaves Jay with reservations.

Central to this work is the power of claiming one's identity and the importance of chosen family, particularly in the face of blood family's failure to care for their loved ones. Mackay does well bringing this tale alive within microbudget limitations, although the visual-effects can sadly fall short of the creative ambitions. It also feels strained how the story moves into the third-act, feeling like an out of place way to reach the villainous monologue.

While the comedic moments are hit and miss, this tale works best when looking at the different ways people grieve, whether the means are destructive or escapist. The depths of self-hatred can burst forth in harmful ways, resulting in a compulsion to double-down with misgendering and transphobia instead of finding self-acceptance. While the villainous motivations can feel familiar, these levels of hatred are sadly commonplace, leaving Mackay to tackle them head-on with justified rage. What remains is a a demon-slaying mediation on grief.

Satranic Panic made its International Premiere at Soho Horror 2023