Full Frame Review: Hail Satan?

Film, Reviews

Over the past few years The Satanic Temple has been getting plenty of traction in the news. They have popped up giving ironic support to Rick Scott when he was governor of Florida. They demanded a statues of Baphomet be placed on the same state capitol grounds as a Ten Commandments monuments. Plus the recently sued and settled when the Netflix series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina used their statue of Baphomet without permission in episodes. Who are these new Satanists and why are they having such fun freaking out people? That’s the core exploration of Hail Satan?, a documentary that’s wickedly fun.

Things start with their rally in 2013 on the steps of the Florida capitol building. A group of Satanists in black robes gather as a spokesperson wearing horns stands in front of a “Satanists for Rick Scott” banner. He praises the then Governor (and now U.S. Senator) for backing a bill that allowed school kids to read inspirational messages at assemblies and sporting events without teacher interference. The Satanists are excited that their children will be able to spread their word without being blocked by principals. The media eats it up. Although as the participants point out that the horned guy is an actor and couldn’t quite sell the Satanic message to the media and stay in character. Thus Lucien Greaves moves up to be the official spokesperson for the group. He doesn’t see this as a complete joke. The behind the scenes footage shows that the other core members were more into the prankster element. The group next gains major headlines when they fought back against Westboro Baptist Church. Instead of showing up at a funeral to directly confront the group, The Satanic Temple performed a ritual over the tombstone of Fred Phelps’ mother to turn her lesbian in the afterlife. They point out that stunt was similar to the Mormons who “convert” dead people to their religion including Anne Frank and Hitler. Phelps was not amused that his mother could be sporting a rainbow flag in heaven.

Things get weird when the group gets invited to Harvard to perform a Black Mass on campus. The Catholic Diocese goes into overdrive to protest this event. Thousands of people led by the priests take to the streets and march to prevent this ritual. This seems to be the thing that makes people forget that the Catholic Church in Boston had been shuttling around child molesting priests for decades. The Satanic Church members refuse to flee Cambridge although they change the venue to a unique off campus location.

The centerpiece of the film is based around the Satanic Church wanting to get their statue of Baphomet put up on the capitol grounds in Arkansas after a State Senator has a statue of the 10 Commandments erected. People are horrified at the idea of this demonic creature coming to town especially since the statue has two sweet kids standing on either side of him. What better way to expose groups that demand “Freedom of Religion” as only wanting Christian perspectives promoted than the statue. The minute you talk about equal time for the Satanists, their “let’s teach both sides of the controversy” rhetoric vanishes as they seek to stop the Satanists from saying anything. Nobody has a problem comparing the Satanic Temple to Isis on TV. There’s a lot of pettiness from their oppositions including people who have to point out that Lucien Greaves isn’t his birth name. Of course these people are reluctant to point out that Pope Francis is also not his real name.

Director Penny Lane and her crew also deal with the major schism in the Satanic Temple. While Greaves and a group of leaders want the Church to play within the system, Jex Blackmore of the Detroit temple wants to take it to the streets. She conducts a ceremony that is quite shocking during a call to arms. Lane allows both Greaves and Blackmore to discuss the incident. There’s a strange irony of a Satanic organization wanting to toss out members.

Hail Satan? makes a point to show that this new Satanic Temple has nothing to do with Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan. The seven fundamental tenets have nothing about worshiping the Devil. It didn’t even seem like anyone in the Temple was listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” backwards. These are a new kinda Satanists are out to expose religious bigotry among Holy Rollers. The film discloses the fact that the 10 Commandments monument put up in Arkansas is based on the “traditional” statue design used by a certain Hollywood film’s promotional campaign in the ’50s.

Hail Satan? is coming out Easter weekend (April 12) in New York and Los Angeles in case you need something to do with the family after Sunrise Service. The film opens up across America on April 19. Check your local theater listings.


Hail Satan? was reviewed at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.