In the middle of the new doc HAIL SATAN?, a member of the Satanic Temple tells the audiences that a lot of people appear disappointed when told what the Satanic Temple is all about. Despite its name, it does not worship the devil or burn human flesh or indulge in sex but is an alternate religion that challenges Christianity as an American religion. Similarly, those who go to see HAIL SATAN? might be disappointed that this doc is a mild doc that dos not expose any controversial devil worship.
Penny Lane’s (OUR NIXON, NUTS!) HAIL SATAN? is an entertaining eye-opening (and yes, noncontroversial and mild) documentary that traces the rise of The Satanic Temple (TST), one of most colourful religious movements in American history. Under enigmatic leader Lucien Greaves and headquartered in Salem, MA, TST is calling for a Satanic revolution to save the nation’s soul.
As the doc reveals, these Satanists are not what one might expect. They fight for individual rights. They fit against tyranny. They do favour hoods, the colour black, horns and shock tactics. But they also aim to take the “evil” out of devil, challenging authority to ensure that America remains secular. Their target – Christianity.
Director lane uses the first half of the doc to extol TST’s virtues. Their beginnings go back to 2013 when they rallied to fight Florida Governor Rick Scott’s push to allow prayer in public schools. Why? Because the United States is not a Christian nation, so inviting God into the classroom would require schools to do the same for Satan. But it was their 2015 win that put them on the map. They forced the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from Oklahoma government property by petitioning to erect a statue of goat-headed Baphomet beside it. Garnering international attention, TST membership grew from three to 100,000 in just three years with chapters worldwide. Hey, I myself would join the membership. Also on their agenda are a Pink Mass, a Black Mass, an after-school Satan club and a “Menstruatin’ With Satan” drive for sanitary products for shelters. And when they help pick up litter, it’s with a pitch fork.
Lane includes excerpts from classic films involving dvil worship including ROSEMARY’S BABY.
Lane’s film fails to expose the ‘bad’s of the TST. The only incident where the legitimacy of the TST is challenged is when the film records Gov Scott’s anger at Lucien Greaves. Scott says even Lucien’s name is false. But the TST’s expansion also brings internal woes. Greaves cuts ties with the Detroit chapter leader after she calls for a presidential assassination in one of her speeches. Greaves maintains that such acts are not in line with the temple’s beliefs.
The film contains extensive interviews wth Greaves, who in real life has one eye, looking rather demonic. But the doc reveals him as a decent film, rather smart and entrepreneurial and able to tackle and challenge bullying institutions.
The film uses the TST’s fight to be able to put up its own monument the Baphomet Statue, as its climax, so that the film would end with a rousing happy ending.
Lane’s film ends ups a satisfying noncontroversial eye-opening doc about the Satanic Temple proving that there are always good people around despite what they call themselves.