Sundance Review: “Hail Satan?”

Oh, what a treat “Hail Satan?” was to watch with a Utah crowd in downtown Salt Lake City. As well all removed our black scarves, black beanies, black coats that warmed our black hearts, the views snuggled into the Broadway Theater at the Salt Lake Film Society just a few blocks away from Vatican City, USA to watch something cheeky. And cheeky it was.

“Hail Satan?” introduces us to The Satanic Temple (around since 20013) and its leader, Lucian Greaves (not his real name – none of them use their real names), the growth of the Temple, and all the mischief they make in shining a light on the hypocrisy of the Christan status quo. It began when Director, Penny Lane, thought back to the “Satanic Panic” of the 70s and 80s. There was a string of new stories about Satanic cults running along the countryside, killing cows, murdering kids, sacrificing babies! How much of this was true? Well, none it. Have you seen “Paradise Lost”? It really wasn’t the music. Studies say it really wasn’t the video games, either. It wasn’t even Dungeons and Dragons.

The film follows The Satanic Temple as they use satanism as a “weapon in the ongoing culture wars.” What war is that? Well, there seem to be a lot fronts (and sometimes within the Temple itself), but it’s mostly the intwiting of church and state that The Satanic Temple has its core issues with. At least they take their battles on with a sense of humor. The most famous example would be the over 10-foot monument to Satan to accompany the erected Ten Commandment Monument in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Tricksters aside, the real surprise of Lane’s film is the community The Satanic Temple is able to build. The comic book kids found their place. The metalheads there. The computer geeks have dug in. The gamers are a go with their slice of the culture. The Satanic Temple, as portrayed in this film, manages to bring all kinds of people together that don’t see America as one homogenized Christian nation. And they all (maybe aside from one person) come off as really nice people. People you would consider to go game of Magic the Gather with. Perhaps that is what’s going on with the question mark in the title – is this really about Satan or is this more about having a community…or at least to have something to fight over on Twitter.

This was a well-received film with some Temple members in the audience. Though a lot of the film is footage of The Satanic Temple trolling mainstream media for attention, which they do quite well, there are more important conversations to be had about what kind of nation are we and who gets to say what the face of America looks like. Ya know, things the Constitution is supposed to answer for us, but never will.

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