Chelsea Stardust is the talented director of the Hulu Into the Dark feature, All That We Destroy. That film was an excellent entry into the series. She now has a new film on the way, a horror comedy from Fangoria titled Satanic Panic. That title alone should have grabbed your attention. Chelsea was nice enough to chat for me a bit the other day about her upcoming film and about being a woman in the horror genre.
PopHorror: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. Today, we are talking about your film, Satanic Panic, which is currently making the film festival circuit. Is that correct?
Chelsea Stardust: Yes, the release date is September 6th.
PopHorror: That’s great! I saw your Into the Dark movie, All That We Destroy, and that was quite the mindfuck. How does Satanic Panic compare? Is your new film similar, or is it its own thing?
Chelsea Stardust: Oh, I think Satanic Panic is totally its own thing. I wanted to do something that was totally different. I love all horror subgenres, and I wanted to do something completely different from my first movie. The first movie was a dark science fiction a la Black Mirror, whereas Satanic Panic just this insane horror comedy that is sort of an homage to the Evil Dead, Jennifer’s Body and Rosemary’s Baby. I call it my Punk Rock Satanic Wizard of Oz!
PopHorror: Have you encountered any kind of push back with the title and theme of the movie?
Chelsea Stardust: Well, with the title, a lot of people think it’s about the Satanic Panic era of the ’80s and ’90s when people were all scared, and it’s not. This does not have anything to do with the Satanic Panic that gave Satanism a bad name. That’s the only issue that has come up and has people going into it thinking they are seeing a movie about Satanic Panic, and then they find out it’s a horror comedy. But most people hear about it, and they want to see it. Now, it’s still early, and I have a lot of showings coming up at festivals, so we’ll see how it goes. But as of yet, I haven’t really had that.
PopHorror: What has the reception been like so far in places it has screened?
Chelsea Stardust: Oh, my God! We just had a fantastic screening recently in Dallas, Texas. It was totally packed and a director’s dream in regards to an audience’s reaction. People were laughing and cheering and yelling out, “Oh, my God!” We shot the whole thing in Dallas, so people were recognizing a lot of the locations, which made it even more special. I couldn’t have been happier with their reaction.
Horror comedy can be tricky. There are a lot [of films] that people watch, and they just aren’t sure what they are or what they’re trying to do. And right now, there is a lot of nihilistic horror out there because of what is going on in the world. I just wanted to make something that was pure escapism. It’s fun, and people can come in, and just forget about all the bullshit that’s out there, and come along for the ride.
PopHorror: How hard was it to get Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell on board?
Chelsea Stardust: Surprisingly easy! Rebecca is a big fan of horror, which a lot of people don’t know. She was a big fan of Fangoria back in the day and loves the genre. I just hadn’t had the opportunity to work with her before. Her and Jerry O’Connell, they’re a married couple in the movie and also married in real life, so it was a lot of fun to work with them. I was so in love with this cast and seeing them make the most of their opportunities. We also used a lot of Dallas talent, and I just loved all of them.
This is the first feature film for my lead actress, Hayley Griffith. I was lucky enough to be allowed to cast her, because I know that doesn’t always happen. They usually want a much bigger name. With Hayley, I saw her audition, and I knew this was Sam… this is our lead.
Ruby Modine was incredible, also. She’s from the Blumhouse family, and I’d heard such wonderful things about her being in Happy Death Day [2017 – read our review here]. She was just a dream to work with on set, so I couldn’t be happier with my cast.
PopHorror: As a women director and a woman in horror, what are some of the obstacles you’ve had to overcome in the industry? What advice do you have for any young, female filmmakers out there?
Chelsea Stardust: My advice would be not not give up. Keep working, keep pushing forward. IF this is your dream, do not let anything stop you. For Satanic Panic, Fangoria specifically wanted a female director, so I had that working for me. Much of our crew and almost all of our department heads were women. I’m always looking for women to work with, so I’ve been very lucky. At Blumhouse, much of the company is made up of women.
And when you do a series of 12 movies like Into the Dark, you need diversity. You can’t just have 12 movies by straight white men. You have to mix it up. Then it becomes so important to also add in female directors and people of color as well as LGBTQ. So I am just honored to be in the company of all those directors from Into the Dark.
In terms of obstacles, there are just certain things where I will not back down. In filmmaking, every film is a miracle. There was never a time when anyone said, “Hey, we’re not going to give you ABCD because you’re a woman.” It was more like, “Oops, this permit got fucked up,” and I had to fight and say, “No, this has to get fucking fixed!” I would not let this vision suffer because of someone’s incompetence. So, it’s just choosing your battles, and remembering that you’re not being bossy as the director. I’m the boss. I struggled with having to stand my ground as a woman. If I stand my ground as a woman, then I’m a bitch. Whereas if I’m a man, then I’m being an auteur. That’s how it used to be, anyway. But now, we are in a time where that’s changing.
If anything, the crew is just like, “Yeah, this is someone who knows what she wants.” So, I’ve been really lucky. I know many in the industry who haven’t been so lucky.
PopHorror: Who haven’t you worked with yet that you’d love to work with in the future?
Chelsea Stardust: Oh, that’s a great question! Let’s see, I’m a director, not a writer. So I’d love to help adapt something by Stephen King or by Joe Hill… you know, working with them to bring their stories to the screen. Then there are so many production companies I’d love to work with. Gunpowder and Sky or Dark Castle… I’d love to work with Blumhouse again or Atomic Monster, which is James Wan’s company. Any of them would be incredible to work with. There is a whole slew of production companies and writers I’d love to work with. The list is long, but I keep it in my back pocket, hoping for that opportunity one day.
PopHorror: What does a day on set for Chelsea Stardust look like?
Chelsea Stardust: Oh, yeah. Satanic Panic took 15 days to shoot. Your attitude on set reflects how the mood is going to be. So, I try to come from a place of kindness, because on set, it’s chaos. I don’t want people yelling at each other. In the morning, before I get on set, I meet with my director of photography, and we storyboard, [which means] basically that we shoot the entire movie with models. We fill the sets out with foam core on a magnetic surface. There is an app on the iPhone where you can pick the lenses and everything. So when we finish that, that goes to the department head, so they can see what scene is being shot, how many setups we need for the day and everything. Everyone then gets that and knows their marching orders for the day.
Obviously, due to time and such, things may get cut, but you have a good idea what you’ll be doing that day. For Satanic Panic, we did a lot of night shoots, so as soon as the sun starts coming up, you know you’re almost done. You can do some color correction, but only so much. So, we were on a time limit with that, [compared to] when you’re shooting inside and it doesn’t matter what time of day it is.
It’s all about the prep. I meet with my actors, and we go over the script, line by line. Like, here is your line and what the other character is saying, and also what is going on in their head. What is happening in the character’s subconscious. We do all of that before getting on set. That gives the actors time to think about what they want to do.
From there, we make little adjustments between each take. We try to do four takes and move on to the next one. I also make it a point to learn everyone’s name on the crew and to thank them each for their hard work. I say hello to them and try to get everyone a thank you note at the end of the shoot, because it takes so many people to make a movie happen, and they are all very important to the process. So, it’s important to me to make everyone feel appreciated. I just work from a place of love. and I want people working with me who want to be there.
PopHorror: Come September 6th, where can we see Satanic Panic?
Chelsea Stardust: It will be a theatrical release, but also [will be available] on VOD and Digital HD at the same time on Amazon, iTunes and lots of other outlets.
I also want to remind people that that is a big weekend for horror. IT Chapter 2 comes out that weekend. I am so excited to see IT Chapter 2 myself. But also, please don’t forget about all the indie films out there that weekend also. Try to support them by going to see IT and then Satanic Panic as a double feature, or see IT in the theater, and then come home and rent Satanic Panic from Amazon or iTunes. It’s just really important to not forget alternative projects that are out there when these huge blockbusters come out. IT is one of my favorite movies, so this is a big weekend.
PopHorror: What current projects are you working on?
Chelsea Stardust: Myself and one of my writers are working on a lot of things right now. We are trying to get them worked up, and we’ll just have to see which one gets the green light. Sometimes in this industry, you have several things going at once, but only one of them may actually happen. So, we’ll see.
I’m also taking a bit of a break. I shot and edited two movies in the last year. It’s been crazy. So I want to really enjoy this moment, take some time to myself, just ride this wave, let it all sink it and enjoy every moment of right now.
PopHorror: Thank you so much, Chelsea Stardust, for taking the time to talk to me. I know we here at PopHorror we are very excited to see Satanic Panic!