Director: Penny Lane
Release Date: January 25, 2019
Documentary filmmaker Penny Lane’s latest film, Hail Satan?, is an exploration of the Satanic Temple, a religious movement that is largely misunderstood. As Americans, we’re taught from birth to believe that God and Jesus are good and the devil (Satan) is evil. We’re told that if we don’t follow the Ten Commandments and accept the Lord and savior Jesus Christ into our hearts that he will send us to a pit of flames to hangout with Satan for eternity. Sounds like a good deal. So when we hear the term Satanist, we’re conditioned think of someone who, as Batman’s butler puts it, just wants to watch the world burn. Hail Satan? aims to set these misconceptions straight and bring awareness to the group’s mission.
The Satanic Temple are unlikely defenders of the Constitution of the United States, specifically the First Amendment and the separation of church and state. Director Penny Lane gives us the full rundown of the group’s quick rise to prominence. Founded in 2013, the Satanic Temple rapidly gained a committed following based on political activism. The group challenges teaching religion in school, putting up Christian monuments on public property, and the passing of laws that oppress those who don’t align themselves with the teachings of Christianity. You know, things that are unconstitutional, but in God We Trust, right?
The Satanic Temple pushes back against corrupt and oppressive churches and governments while working within the system, using the rules that are already in place against the organizations that set them. They actively combat Christianity being pushed by schools and by the government by requiring the organizations to respect their religion and give them the same platform that is given to others by law. This includes saying a Satanic prayer before a city council meeting, putting up a statue of the devil in public and starting an after-school Satanic club at an elementary school. Not all of these came to fruition, but they successfully ruffled some feathers, making national headlines while pissing off Fox News hosts and government officials.
Lane uses comedy to highlight the hypocrisy of our country. She shows us the misconceptions of the group by showing how irrational Christians will react to its rallies. Protesters hold signs with hate-filled messages and the group regularly receives death threats. The troll bit of the group exposes how misguided and unaccepting people of “faith” can be toward people with a different point of view. She contrasts this with examples of community service the Satanic Temple does for the homeless and for the environment. The outrageous claims from evangelical Christian leaders and high-ranking government officials alone make Hail Satan? one of the most hilarious documentaries I’ve ever seen. The jokes write themselves and Lane puts them all on display.
This film will undoubtedly offend the extreme Bible-beating, gay-hating preacher who shows up to your college campus on Wednesdays to make a scene outside of the library to tell us how we’re all going to hell. Between the graphic nudity shown during their rituals or the effort to place an 8-foot statue of Baphomet next to a Ten Commandments monument on the Arkansas State Capitol grounds, your grandpa isn’t going to be happy about this.