Hail Satan? (Documentary Review)

Freedom of speech and religion allow for people to protest what they think is wrong and believe in what they feel is true. That is why Magnolia Pictures and Director Penny Lane (Our Nixon 2013, Normal Appearances 2017) have teamed up to present Hail Satan?, a Documentary focusing on the Satanic Temple and various events surrounding the movement. In theaters on Wednesday, April 17th, the film uses interviews with the spokesman of the religion, Lucien Greaves (Death of a Public Paranoid 2017) and other various members explaining their involvement. 

To give a bit more back story, in January of 2013, members of the Satanic Temple decided to poke fun of Governor Rick Scott’s platform push of putting religion and prayer back in school. They felt that he was being a hypocrite since there are other religions in the world/country and not just Christian ideals. It all started with a tongue and cheek public support for the Governor and has evolved into a movement to broaden the religious horizons of the county.

As the ideas of the Satanic Temple spreads, more and more temples are founded to give power to the religion. It is quickly realized that a spokesman is needed for the temple. Greaves quickly becomes the spokesman for the temple and the movement. He is the face of the Satanic Temple and is often the face seen in the media defending their actions and beliefs. More and more people flock to the temple and use their numbers to fight what they perceive to be hypocrisies in the government.

All religions and movements have a base as everything has to start somewhere. If this is just part of the beginning history of the Satanic Temple, then what else is in store? Where will it fall in the movement to change the history of the country?

Hail Satan? follows the basic Documentary guidelines. There are various unscripted scenes where the people involved are just moving about their lives normally. Several interviews with members in front of what appears to be a high school yearbook picture background are also heavily prevalent. Of course, there is media footage from different outlets that have covered the events the Satanic Temple’s actions. Just like any group of people, there are internal issues within. While there is nothing wrong with it, the style of Hail Satan? is very basic and unoriginal. There is nothing special to speak about.

There are several issues with the tone of the film. It is very unnerving that all of the founders of the Satanic Temple uses pseudonyms and almost all of their faces are blurred in this Documentary. The purpose of the film seems to be to let the public know how wonderful the Satanic Temple actually is. This is highly problematic. How can anyone fully believe or respect them if the main leaders are unwilling to reveal their true identities or even faces? If the beliefs and actions are truly something that they believe in, why the anonymity? Why hide the truth? If anything, this does more damage than good to their credibility.

Another major issue falls with the obvious tone of almost all of the members that are onscreen. Like most religions, acceptance of others is spoken while the obvious disdain for those who believe differently permeates through the screen. In this regard, the Satanic Temple is exactly like what they claim to be trying to differentiate from, which is fairly amusing as it seems to be lost on those involved.

Documentaries are great tools to allow people to learn more about a specific subject. Sometimes the viewer already has some type of understanding about the subject, and the film is able to either change or solidify those ideas. If the viewer is interested in learning more about the Satanic Temple, then Hail Satan? has failed at this objective. It is the prime example of a biased Documentary that does nothing but push a specific agenda; which is not done well at all as the viewer will not gain any new information from viewing. It is for these reasons Cryptic Rock gives Hail Satan? 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Magnolia Pictures

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