HAIL SATAN? (2019)
Directed by Penny Lane
Starring Lucien Greaves, Jex Blackmore, Chalice Blythe, Nicholas Crowe, Sal De Ciccio, Stu De Haan, Cecil B. DeMille, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mamie Eisenhower, Michael ‘Wonka’ Fischer, Courtney Francisco, Billy Graham, Aurora Griffin, Mason Hargett, Chris Hayes, Charlton Heston, Shiva Honey, Malcolm Jarry, Megyn Kelly, Lynita Killen, Kym LaRoux, Anton LaVey, Jack Matirko, William Morrison, Bill O’Reilly, Mike Pence, Jesper Aagard Petersen, Fred Phelps Jr., Joe Pyne, Erielle Reshef, Brahm Resnick, Geraldo Rivera, Emily Rooney, Sadie Satanas, Chip Scarborough, Rick Scott, Michelle Shortt, Greg Stanton, Greta Van Susteren, Eve Vulgaris, Jim Waring, Jay D. Wexler, Michael Wiener, David Corpus
Find out more about this film here!
I caught up with this interesting documentary that is less horror and more about personal and religious freedoms and alternative lifestyles. HAIL SATAN? is never dull, and downright infectious in the way it portrays the members of the Satanic Temple, a group of outcasts and misfits who challenge those who attempt to marry church and state to fit with Catholic religion. Whether you believe in the cause or not, director Penny Lane offers up an ultimately entertaining take on subculture and rebellion.
The film covers a lot of ground, but centers on the Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves, who serves as the mouthpiece for a movement that started small and ended up amassing thousands of members worldwide. The doc does a good job of distinguishing the group from the textbook Satan worshippers we all know and love from Catholic influenced movies and media. While “Hail Satan” is shouted and devil horns are brandished on their heads and hand gestures, the group is more about the personal and religious freedoms we often take for granted. Growing up in a Catholic household, like a lot of Americans, I was taught all of this stuff was evil and should be stayed away from. Now as a rebellious and contrarian adult, I find myself agreeing with a lot of the arguments and tenets that the Satanic Temple follows. I’m no Satanist, but the folks depicted in this film are far from evil. They’re just another group of folks looking for like-minded people to associate with. This doc does a great job humanizing the group and definitely approaches their plight in a sympathetic manner.
At the same time, the group doesn’t back down to challenging all forms of resistance by using the very Constitution of the United States against those who oppose them. Much of the film focuses on the protests of the erecting of a 10 Commandments monument on governmental grounds that call for the separation of church and state. In response to these holy monuments, they have made an 8 foot tall statue of the demon Baphomet on a throne adorned with pentagrams and snakes and flanked by a pair of wide eyed children gazing up at the demon in awe. Their point is obvious. They know the statue is offensive and obnoxious, but they also know that it is within their rights to ask for the monument be placed beside the 10 Commandments as a counteroffer to those who might not be interested in one sole religion being represented. Multiple times we are shown how threatening to put up the monument has brought down the 10 Commandments monument and that’s all the Satanic Temple wanted in the first place.
I was enthralled with this film from start to finish as it points out the hypocrisies of our daily life. Sure, for the most part, these Satanists are more smartass than evil in the way they use the rules against the government, but being a bit of a rebel myself, I couldn’t help but applaud all that these guys have accomplished.
There is also a very interesting subplot about the extremist leader of a sect in Detroit who was booted out of the Satanic Temple because she threatened violence towards those in authority, including threatening to kill the president himself. It is interesting to see this conflict within the group and proof that the more an organization grows, the less control one has over it. It is both unsettling and amusing to see Greaves and the rest of the Satanic Temple’s council squirm and try to handle this bad PR move. It’s the outcasts finding that there needs to be some order in order to run smoothly and sometimes with that order comes being somewhat of an authoritarian oneself.
Unless you’re one of those who is immediately offended with the mere mention of the word Satan, you’re more than likely going to find this documentary as interesting as I did. I’m not one of the converted, but I do understand the appeal this religion has. While at times, the day to day mundanity of the Satanic Temple is amusing to watch, they are fighting for worthwhile causes. Lane’s documentary is successful in depicting the culture, the plight, and those who stand against them. The results is a sometimes amusing, sometimes inspiring, all the time entertaining documentary that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who ever had questions about the Catholic religion and the hold it has over American society.