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Flyer design courtesy of Reed Bruemmer.

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One of the reasons metalheads revere the 1980s is that their music was still viewed as dangerous then. There wasn’t the same unspoken agreement then that most metal fans were sweaty losers glued to their laptops—the music was new, and the fans were unpredictable (even most of the guys in Heavy Metal Parking Lot look like they could drop you).

The media of the 80s believed that Satanism was the chief corrupter of our nation’s youth, and that heavy metal was the horse it rode in on. This created a field day for America’s talk shows, who all scrambled to book either satanic priests with funny eyebrows or foul-mouthed longhairs who were happy to accept six drinks in the dressing room. Geraldo did it first, but he was soon joined by a myriad of fear-mongers, most notably preacher Bob Larson, who would later be famous for bickering with Deicide’s Glen Benton on his radio show.

To modern metalheads, these segments are entertainment in its highest form. Not only does one get to see scared Christians trying to wrap their minds around metal, but also tons of vintage metal imagery and TV footage (finish your beer every time they show King Diamond). But only some Satanic Panic programs are worthy of a late night basement drinking session. We’ll be hosting a screening of some of these films as well. Details at the bottom of the post, but in the meantime sit back and let the Casserole guide you through the Best of the Satanic Panic.

— Scab Casserole

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The Geraldo Rivera Specials: Exposing Satan’s Underground (1988)
Hosted by: Geraldo Rivera
Length: An hour and a half. Jesus Christ.
Biggest threat to our children: Out-of-control teens.
Craziest person involved: Nikolas Schreck, Satanist.

“That man is…so repugnant.” This is the one that started them all, folks—Geraldo’s ninety-minute expose on a purported “underground network of Satanic criminals.” Featuring an all-star line-up of occult priests, Anton La Vey’s daughter, FBI agents, pastors, a Catholic priest, convicted killers and hair metal-era Ozzy Osbourne, Exposing Satan’s Underground is a brilliant display of what an utter freak show America was in 1988.

The sheer amount of trashy stimuli present in this TV special is breathtaking. See: a member of the Catholic archdiocese publicly claim that demonic possession is real! Hear: a shaggy, confused Ozzy trying to explain that he isn’t a Satanist! Feel: the murderous hatred radiating off of murderer Sean Sellers when he is interrupted by fat-ass occult “specialist” Tom Wedge! One underused guest is Nikolas Schreck, an acne-riddled apocalyptic madman whose Charles Manson-obsessed ramblings are attributed to Satanism rather than, say, his obvious chemical imbalance. Through all this and more, Geraldo lurches around a talk show set like a deeply concerned Frankenstein’s monster, interrupting his guests and jumping to nonsensical conclusions. Yet as disgusting and contemptuous as this program is, it’s also straight brain candy, and you can’t stop sucking it down even as it gives your soul diabetes.

Overall rating: 8.5/10. The standard.

Escaping Satan’s Web (1987)
Hosted by: Pastor Fletcher A. Brothers
Length: One hour.
Biggest threat to our children: Dungeons & Dragons
Craziest person involved: Sean Sellers. He’s a reptile in a human body.

How can an interview with a psychotic killer be entirely uninteresting? You’ll find out in Escaping Satan’s Web, in which Fletcher A. Brothers interviews Sean Sellers, poster boy for Using Satanism As An Excuse To Kill Your Parents. Brothers might be the “founder and director of Freedom Village, USA,” but he has terrible posture, and spends this boring-ass hour-long rant slumped forward in his seat. The few cut-aways to heavy metal logos and pentagram graffiti are tacked on to a straightforward interview between two awkward assholes.

At their heart, Brothers and Sellers are a comedy duo. The pastor is fucking obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons to the point where you wonder what exact event caused this video to get funded. Even better is how annoyed Sellers gets every time Brothers interrupts his childish ranting. You can see him thinking, “I want to strangle this holy man to death on camera.” Just terrific. An interesting note is that while YouTube dates this video as being made in 1987, Brothers actually takes a moment to thank Geraldo for his 1988 special, and obviously picked Sean Summers due to his appearance in Exposing Satan’s Underground. Then again, with a shitty enough camera, this could have been made the same day; Sean Sellers doesn’t seem to age beyond being a cruel-eyed man-child.

Overall rating: 6/10. It’s got some great moments, but man does it drag on.

In The Name Of Satan (1990)
Hosted by: Bob Larson
Length: Forty minutes.
Biggest threat to our children: Pedophile occultist schoolteachers.
Craziest person involved: Christy, former victim.

You have to love Bob Larson. He’s the Sammy Davis Jr. of scaring the shit out of your parents, all while coming across as the most terrifying human being of all time. But In The Name Of Satan showcases a number of runners-up in that category: every single former victim of Satanic ritual child abuse on this special has the cool light of insanity in their eyes (including good ol’ Sean Sellers again, repeating some of his best catch-phrases). Their stories are too detailed and over-the-top, and anyone who has met a victim of child abuse knows they don’t talk about their experience like it was some scene out of a Hammer Horror movie. The worst is Christy, a chubby and short-haired woman who tells a melodramatic tale of being forced to eat shit and dead babies (not joking) with an eerie, somewhat amused calm.

One running theme in the Satanic Panic was ritual child abuse, all of which stemmed from Lawrence Pazder’s Michelle Remembers and the McMartin preschool trial (at which Pazder was a consultant). But given the number of terrifying crayon drawings shown during In The Name Of Satan, you’d think every preschool in 1980s America was a seething cauldron of pedophilic devil-worshippers. The whole thing becomes ridiculous when Larson poses on a playground in a blue sweater and khakis, looking one lollipop short of being a child molester.

Overall rating: 8/10. A gripping parade of nutcases.

Metal Mania (1988)
Hosted by: Bob Larson.
Length: Thirty-seven minutes.
Biggest threat to our children: Slayer.
Craziest person involved: Bob goddamn Larson.

While In The Name Of Satan shows Bob Larson doing his best to protect the children of America, Metal Mania portrays him as the kind of hip dude who knows what’s really going on with teens today and their crazy rock music. The glassy-eyed preacher takes to the streets to talk to some troubled adolescents, and shows footage from a “lively public discussion” he had with members of the metal band Laaz Rockit in which he brings out a member of a Christian glam metal band named Russia to show how rock can be done right.

But once again, Larson’s natural showmanship and rabid need for attention make all of his religious points invalid. Bob reads Slayer lyrics in a concerned deadpan before flashing a picture of himself posing with the nonplussed band. “Imagine me on tour with these guys!” chuckles good ol’ Bob. “The kings of black metal music!” During his conversation with Laaz Rockit’s Michael Coons, the sympathetic Bob Larson is replaced by a cruel, loud-mouthed bully who reminds Coons that his friend is dead and probably in Hell. Bob’s desire to out-rock the rock stars becomes frightening by the end, and when he finally urges parents to “be the friend your child he thinks he’s found by worshiping some heavy metal idol” the viewer fears for their life.

Overall rating: 9/10. Like Heavy Metal Parking Lot but judgmental as Hell.

The Law Enforcement Guide To Satanic Cults (1994)
Hosted by: Cop/pastor Gordon L. Coulter.
Length: An hour and fifteen minutes.
Biggest threat to our children: Ritual graffiti, homosexual park dwellers.
Craziest person involved: Former Satanist Eric Pryor.

Among Satanic Panic segments and specials, The Law Enforcement Guide To Satanic Cults is the Holy Grail. Late on the draw (it was made in the mid-90s) and hopelessly out of touch, the movie is such an obvious appeal to the worst kinds of people—scared small-town cops and “recruited” Christians, primarily—that it can’t help but be seen as a laugh-a-minute thrill ride. Highlights include made-up Satanic holidays with arbitrarily gruesome celebrations, and a list of cult activities that range from vandalism to sexual trafficking of children (host Gordon Coulter trying to pronounce ‘pedophilia’ for the first time is comedy gold).

And then there’s Eric Pryor, a former high Satanic priest who looks like Joe Dirt became Joe Meth. Pryor reveals that the most terrible cult acts occur in heavily-populated city parks, and that the occult and homosexual communities “go hand-in-hand.” It is then hard to watch Pryor’s overwrought descriptions of ritual graffiti that has obviously been spray-painted minutes before his arrival, as one cannot help but imagine him in that very park the night before giving some dude a rusty trombone for a dimer of crank. The whole thing is soundtracked with the same terrible synthesizer music played over and over during every transition sequence.

Overall rating: 10/10. Everything about this movie is perfectly terrible.

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Invisible Oranges presents a screening of selected Satanic Panic films on Wednesday, May 13 from 8-11PM at Black Sky Brewery, 490 Santa Fe Dr. Denver, Colorado. Up the irons.

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