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Satanic Panic: Director Chelsea Stardust On The Fangoria-Produced Horror-Comedy

Chelsea Stardust is making waves in the horror-comedy world with her new movie Satanic Panic. Produced by legendary horror magazine Fangoria, that imprimatur is not to be taken lightly. Stardust meets and exceeds those expectations though with her gory, funny flick.

We talked to her about influences on her new film, working with Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell and what 80s horror movie she’d like to remake.

RLJE Films will release SATANIC PANIC in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on September 6, 2019.

LRM Online: Hi, Chelsea.

Stardust: Hi. How’s it going?

LRM Online: It’s good. Well, maybe not as good as it is for you since you’ve made this awesome feature, and you’re out promoting it.

Stardust: Oh, stop. Thank you. Thank you.

LRM Online: I really enjoyed the movie. I guess we can start with how you became attached to it?

Stardust: Yeah, so, I believe … In terms of order of events, Fangoria, they had the script, and they were specifically looking for female directors. And I know they had their lists and were asking colleagues and friends, and I think they had reached out to Ryan Turek at Blumhouse sort of like, “Hey, here’s our list. Who else do you suggest?” And I think he had mentioned me because I had just done All That We Destroy with Blumhouse. And they said, “We’d love to check that out.” They saw Destroy. They eventually made the offer to my agent, or sent the script, I should say. And I read the script. I said, “I love Grady Hendrix. I would love to make this movie. And we got on a call together and I just pitched the shit out of it. I just pitched my vision for the movie, and I told them you know I come from comedy and I come from horror.

I was giving film references in terms of tone and look of the movie. I think I even sent score ideas and samples. I just pitched the shit out of it! And they said yeah. Also, I talked about why I love Grady Hendrix and Fangoria even though I … This is like little-known fact, but I actually did not grow up with Fangoria. It wasn’t available. It wasn’t on my radar because of where I grew up. So I didn’t even really know about it until I was in late high school, early college. And I was like, “What is this?” And became obsessed with it. So being part of the Fangoria family now, many years later, is very cool and very special. So I’m so happy that they said yes to me.

LRM Online: Having their stamp of approval on your first feature, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Stardust: Yeah. For to have it be with Blumhouse and Fangoria is like pretty good for first two movies.

LRM Online: It sounds like you were familiar with Grady Hendrix. Did you read many of his books before? Did you have a favorite of his books?

Stardust: My Best Friend’s Exorcism, definitely. I mean I love … I liked Horrorstör and Paperbacks from Hell and We Sold Our Souls that have come out more recently. But I read My Best Friend’s Exorcism. I have a horror book club here in LA.

LRM Online: Oh, nice.

Stardust: We read that, and I just … I was in love with it. I’d love to get a chance to direct that movie. But yeah, by far My Best Friend’s Exorcism. Getting to meet Grady and talk about the script with him. I had a couple of notes on it. And he was so fun to work with and totally receptive to all my notes. So, it was such a treat working with him.

LRM Online: That’s great. Sometimes there can be tension between a director and writer. But that’s awesome if you guys didn’t have that and were able to collaborate.

Stardust: Yeah. Not at all. It was great.

LRM Online: So, seeing as how it’s a horror movie to do with a satanic cult, I was wondering what some of your favorites of that kind of horror sub-genre were.

Stardust: Well I love House of the Devil, Ti West’s movie. I just did a double feature of that with Satanic Panic in Texas.

LRM Online: Oh, nice.

Stardust: And they’re very much sister films, I feel like. But also Race with the Devil, and Drag Me to Hell is a big influence. And also Deathgasm. And even Society in sort of a different way, too, and Jennifer’s Body, which has aspects of Satanism in it as well. But Jennifer’s Body is probably one of the biggest influences.

LRM Online: Oh, awesome. Yeah, I remember seeing that at the drive-in when it came out, and that one made a big impact on me as a viewer.

Stardust: Yeah. So good. I love it so much.

LRM Online: So Hayley Griffith in the lead role, how did you find her? We’re you just auditioning tons of actresses to try to find the right one for it?

Stardust: Yeah, exactly. So we did casting in Los Angeles, and we had a lot of people coming in and auditioning, and she was a self-tape because she was based in New York. And I saw her audition, and I said, “Oh my God, this is her.” Like you have those moments when you’re casting, and you see someone and you’re like, “Oh, that’s that part. It’s there. We have to cast this person.” And I saw so many incredible actors, but I just kept coming back to her. And the thing was, she had not done a movie before. She was … In Hollywood terms, she was quote-unquote “unknown.” But I talked to the producers, and I was like, “Listen, I think it’s her. I think that part belongs to Hayley.” And they agreed, and they said, “Okay, let’s do it.” And, sure enough, I think she’s just incredible and knocked it out of the park. I was so honored to be the one to cast her in her first feature. I was so excited to give her that chance, and she absolutely crushed the movie and carries the movie, which is not easy to do. And she has so many incredible actors she’s surrounded by. So I loved, loved working with her.

LRM Online: She was great. She was just really charming and popped off the screen and had a kind of every woman quality. You can associate with her and where she is and what she’s dealing with. And then, speaking of the other actors in there, this is kind of a joke question, but maybe not. With Jerry O’Connell and Rebecca Romijn, was casting them like a package deal, or how did that work?

Stardust: No, we cast Rebecca first. And we were sort of talking about the role of Samuel, and that’s a very tricky role to play, because it’s this toxic masculinity, and it’s not easy. It’s not an easy role. And we started talking. We’re like, “I wonder if Jerry would be interested in playing it.” Like he’s obviously played opposite Rebecca before, and so we’re like, “Well, I wonder if he’d be down to do this.” Because it’s not a very flattering role in the sense of what the guy does. And I said, “A very particular actor has to play that role.” And I said, “I think Jerry would totally nail it,” and, sure enough, he read it and was like, “Yeah, totally.” And watching him and Rebecca work together was the coolest thing, too.

LRM Online: He does crush it in that scene. You don’t like him, but he is really funny. It’s a really good scene there. So, horror remakes have been going strong for the past 15 years since the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If you could go back to any horror movies, be it eighties or what have you, is there anyone that strikes your fancy that, if you had a chance, you would want to remake?

Stardust: Oh, that’s a great question. Yeah. There’s one movie that’s not necessarily horror that I’m trying to remake. I’m trying to get the rights to it, but I don’t want to say what it is, because I don’t want to jinx it. But it’s from the ’70s. In terms of horror movies, I would love to tackle Slumber Party Massacre. Because it’s the only horror franchise that’s completely written and directed by women. And, if someone’s gonna remake that, I would hope that it’s a female director- writer team. That’s one that I’ve always loved, and I’m a big fan of Amy Holden Jones. Another would be a Desperation, the Stephen King book. It was adapted into a miniseries a couple of years ago, but I would love to sort of do the treatment that they did with It on that.

LRM Online: Oh, nice.

Stardust: So where you’re sort of splitting it up between two films. And those are probably the two that stick in my mind, aside from this other one that I’m trying to get the rights to. But, yeah, horror remakes are tricky. Some are great, and some I wish would just be left alone. For example, like Evil Dead is a total classic, but I love the Evil Dead remake, and both of those influenced Satanic Panic in different ways. So I think sometimes you can do it and do it well. It’s just giving it, honestly, the proper budget and making sure you have a great f**king script, and taking time and not rushing it, I think, is also the key.

LRM Online: Great. Well yeah, I hope you do get a chance to do those. I would love to see them. And thank you so much for your time and speaking to me. Good luck with the premiere.

Stardust: Thank you so much.

RLJE Films will release SATANIC PANIC in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on September 6, 2019.

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