Documentary Review: ‘Hail Satan?’

Review by James Lindorf

The Satanic Temple is thought of as many things. A satirical group, ritualistic devil worshippers, haters of Christianity, evil, but in Penny Lane’s (Nuts!, Our Nixon) new documentary Hail Satan?, the word that may best describe modern Satanists is inspirational. The Gabriel Sedgwick produced Hail Satan? features co-founder and vocal leader of The Satanic Temple, Lucien Greaves, and opens theatrically April 19, 2019.

Lane chronicles the rise of one of the most controversial religious movements in American history, a religion based on the ideals of pluralism and trolling rather than faith. When chapter heads began to organize public events designed to advocate for inclusion and religious freedom, it was evident that a good idea backed by passion and courage can lead to growth, and maybe even justice.

It took months for Lane to gain the trust of The Satanic Temple (TST) members before they were willing to truly open themselves up to be filmed. Even then, some members, including Greaves’ co-founders, chose to have their image obscured. It could lead some viewers to judge their commitment to the church, but it becomes clear that the amount of opposition and outright threats they face with every action that these members may fear for their lives or at least their sanity.

The film highlights the inclusive nature of the church and its members that come in various ages, races, gender identities, and sexual orientations. Most members conform to the stereotypes with black clothes, an affinity for black metal music, and lots of body mods, but there are also clean-cut lawyers and a “zesty little atheist” from Arkansas who looks more like Pee Wee than Rob Zombie.

Lane’s film does a mix of good and bad for the group. Hail Satan? shows what TST members are truly about, all in an effort to break the current stereotypes. On the other hand, it doesn’t push the envelope enough when explaining what makes them a religion. Viewers may be left feeling that the church is more of a group of activists than an organized religion where faith brings people together. She also shows how the theatrics, such as rituals that involve nudity or pig heads, can sometimes get in the way of their acceptance by larger communities.

Hail Satan? focuses heavily on the battle between TST and Sen. Jason Rapert over the installation of a Ten Commandments monument in Arkansas. While the story is exceedingly interesting, it feels somewhat repetitive after the examination of a similar fight in Oklahoma, causing the film to run a little long at 95 minutes. Overall, Hail Satan? blends humor, education, and passion into an interesting and entertaining documentary.

Directed by Penny Lane
Produced by Gabriel Sedgwick
Edited by Amy Foote and Aaron Wickenden, ACE
Director of Photography: Naiti Gámez
Original Music by Brian McOmber, feat. Angel Deradoorian and Jordan Dykstra

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