Director Penny Lane
Stars Jex Blackmore, Nicholas Crowe, Lucien Greaves
Runtime 1 hour 35 minutes
by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport
Seconds after the credits began to roll, I googled to see if there was a Church of the Satanic Temple in Philadelphia. I know what you are probably thinking - in just a little over ninety minutes I was managed to be brainwashed. Nah. I prefer to call it, enlightened. Hail Satan?
I think it is important to note that my knowledge of religion does not go beyond a single semester of an Intellectual Heritage class that I had taken in college. This is despite both of my parents being raised catholic. Despite my mother experiencing the full blown immersion of Catholicism by attending an all girls catholic school from kindergarten to twelfth grade, I still know nothing. By the time my brother and I came around neither of my parents were interested in continuing the practice of hail Marys and lighting candles. In fact, they shared very little information with us about any of their church going days. Throughout my adult life, I of course learned of the corruption, greed and cover-ups associated with my parents’ particular religion. This in turn gave me the consensus that religions were very much like cults.
I won’t lie, cults, well, they are fascinating to me. However, my idea of cults is probably a bit grandiose or splashy. When I hear the word “cult” my mind immediately goes to: robes, chanting in unison and the excessive commitment to a particular idea (MOVIES ARE ALL THAT MATTER). These concepts/ideals are very much my cup of tea. Although, much of these presumptions most likely hold little truth. This can similarly be said about my initial thoughts before watching the documentary Hail Satan?
One of the best things about this documentary is that it does a really great job of ridding the viewer of misconceptions. Of course there are followers within their church that sport Devil horns, don black capes and carry pitchforks - but their beliefs go way beyond the garb. At times the documentary can give off this feeling that the interviewees which include the founder of the church Lucien Greaves and, now ex-member, Jex Blackmore are constantly on the defense. I think it is pretty easy to understand why though. Many people simply fail to take the time to understand what they actually stand for.
An interesting point that the documentary makes is that we are supposed to be a nation that doesn’t have one specific religion, yet the majority of the nation refuses to acknowledge much beyond christianity. The Church of the Satanic Temple is directly confronting the ideas of conformity and injustice. Satanism is seen more as activism and rebellion against a society that tries to keep us brainless zombies.
Throughout the documentary, the group spends a lot of time through demonstrations whether it be protests or community service warding off the false delusions created by others. This was especially noticed when they attempted to lead a Black Mass in Boston. Due to dissent from the local catholic church, the event ended up being a failure. Although “Black Mass” may sound daunting, the theme of the event was more about the declaration of independence from superstition and to speak out against the catholic church’s crimes in regards to rape and child molestation. The group was attempting to show the true evil comes from ignorance.
The director Penny Lane, known for her eccentric documentaries such as her short Just Add Water: The Story of The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys, does a wonderful job of mixing the talking heads interviews with showing the members in action at events. The filmmaking is pieced together well and the ideas that are introduced are followed through to present a meaningful story. This is shown through the way in which she chooses to tell the story of the Satanic monument that was specially created after a successful crowdfunding. At first glance, the statue (pictured at the top of this review) may come off as a bit questionable; two children standing aside Baphomet, looking up to him. Many people make the assumption they made their Satanic monument to induce fear or dismay, but this is so far from the truth. Rather, the statue was created to call out the ridiculousness of religion and it being tied with the government - just as the ten commandments have been. This was their form of outcry against the ten commandments being displayed on government property. If that monument is able to be there, why can’t Satan?
This documentary affected me in many ways. It made me think about how those that society deems “different” are treated. The feeling of hatred often stems from mindlessness or ignorance. Many of the reactions that Lucien and his fellow members receive are simply due to lack of understanding. People who are against the concepts presented by the Church of the Satanic Temple are more than likely just not taking the time understand it. The Church just wants you to think and if you are so inclined, chant: Hail Satan!