Hail Satan Review

I was a teenage satanist… well, not exactly, but being the only person at school who wore an Iron Maiden T-shirt, had long hair and listened to bands as exotically named as White Zombie and Sepultura certainly drew the satanist accusation from my peers.  

So maybe I wasn’t exactly a satanist but being the purposely antagonistic person I was (and still am), I never denied the accusation.  Besides, growing up in the middle of nowhere in Lincolnshire felt like hell to me at times.

I guess much like my fellow students in Lincolnshire, people can hear a word or see an image and draw a very quick conclusion.  This brings us to Hail Satan! the documentary directed by Penny Lane that made a recent appearance at the Sundance film festival.  

Hail Satan! focuses on The Satanic Temple, a religious movement in America helmed by Lucien Greaves and follows the groups’ interactions with the rather outdated and hypocritical political regime in America.

The documentary is centered around the temple’s efforts to have a statue of the occultist deity Baphomet installed next to a statue of the 10 Commandments, which is situated on public grounds.  The original 10 Commandments statue goes against the first amendment that states the Government cannot promote one religion over another and so the Satanic Temple get to work highlighting this issue. 

Hail Satan! opens with a rather comical scene depicting the group organising a rally outside a political building in a slightly amateur fashion, causing more than a few sniggers from my fellow attendees.

Sitting in my black metal t-shirt, I was a bit worried this film was going to show the Satanists in a rather poor light as they bumbled their way around throwing the devil horns and shouting “hail satan” every time a camera was turned on them.  Thankfully this wasn’t the case and the documentary ends up being more than sympathetic to the cause and shows the group as intelligent, welcoming and blessed with humour. 

Throughout the documentary, the temple members come across as more liberal activists or strong atheists than anything satanic and one could argue the name ‘The Satanic Temple’ is holding the group back from achieving some very important goals.  Unfortunately the term Satanic does come with some predisposed thoughts for many people and the group certainly enjoy playing with the ideas of Satanism to achieve notoriety.

Apart from one moment when the Temple’s activities go slightly beyond acceptable, the organisation is shown in a very good light and the statue highlights the hypocritical nature of the authorities and opposition to the temple.

Hail Satan! expertly shows how the lines between politics and religion have become blurred and biased towards Christianity in America and the documentary ends up being more of an examination of the political and religious landscape than purely focusing on the Satanists.

It’s tough for any documentary to show no bias towards one side of their subject matter over another and unsurprisingly Hail Satan! is very supportive of The Satanic Temple without showing the other side of the coin too much, an argument could be made that it’s almost anti-Christianity at some points.   

But it’s a thought-provoking and highly entertaining documentary that highlights a very real issue in America through the eyes of the Satanic Temple and it should hopefully change the views held against the group by some of the more narrow-minded ends of society.

Think I might even send a copy to Lincolnshire.

Andrew Campbell

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