“Satanic Panic” edited by Janisse Kier-la and Paul Corupe— A Descent Into Cultural Terror

satanic panic

Janisse, Kier-la and Paul Corupe, editors. “Satanic Panic”, FAB Press, 2016.

A Descent into Cultural Terror

Amos Lassen

In the 1980s, Satan seemed to be everywhere and it was impossible to escape his supposed influence. There were warnings everywhere about a widespread evil conspiracy to indoctrinate the vulnerable through the media. This has since become known as the “Satanic Panic,” and its aim was to convince us of devils “lurking behind the dials of our TVs and radios and the hellfire that awaited on book and video store shelves, it also created its own fascinating cultural legacy of Satan-battling VHS tapes, audio cassettes and literature”. This book is an in-depth exploration of how we were caught in a culture war during the decade. It features new essays and interviews by 20 writers who look at the ways the widespread fear of a Satanic conspiracy was both illuminated and propagated through almost every pop culture pathway in the 1980s (from heavy metal music to Dungeons & Dragons role playing games, Christian comics, direct-to-VHS scare films, pulp paperbacks, Saturday morning cartoons, TV talk shows and even home computers). We also have case studies on Thee Temple or Psychick Youth and Long Island “acid king” killer Ricky Kasso. We meet con artists, pranksters, martyrs and moralists and see how untold story of how the Satanic Panic was fought on the pop culture frontlines and the serious consequences it had for many involved. We become very aware of what happens when belief outweighs reason.

The writers include Adam Parfrey (Apocalypse Culture), Gavin Baddeley (The Gospel of Filth, Lucifer Rising: Sin, Devil Worship and Rock n’ Roll), Liisa Ladouceur (Encyclopedia Gothica), David Flint (SHEER FILTH!), Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (Rape Revenge Films: A Critical Study), Adrian Mack (The Georgia Straight), Forrest Jackson (Cosmic Suicide: The Tragedy and Transcendence of Heaven’s Gate), Alison Nastasi (Flavorwire), Leslie Hatton (Popshifter), David Canfield (Twitch), David Bertrand (Fangoria; Spectacular Optical), Alison Lang (Rue Morgue, Broken Pencil), Kevin L. Ferguson (Eighties People), Wm Conley (Deathwound), Kurt Halfyard (Twitch), Samm Deighan (Satanic Pandemonium), Stacey Rusnak (The Postnational Fantasy: Essays on Postcolonialism, Cosmopolitics and Science Fiction), Ralph Elawani (C’est complet au royaume des morts), Gil Nault (Liturgie apocryphe), one-man band John Schooley and Joshua Benjamin Graham, alongside co-editors Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) and Paul Corupe (Canuxploitation). The book also features comic art by Rick Trembles (Motion Picture Purgatory) and original illustrations by Toronto artist Mike McDonnell.

This is a fascinating bit of pop-culture ephemera, especially for those of us who lived through this period. While it may have laid down roots in the late Sixties and Seventies, with the great successes of films like “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) and “The Omen” (1976), or with the resurgence of interest in occult matters after the founding of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, the “Satanic Panic” remains a relic of the Eighties. “Satanic Panic” is an essential resource for understanding this momentary mass hysteria with its exploration of both the causes of the craze and the effects it had on Eighties society.

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