Sundance 2019: Hail Satan?

As an armchair satanic panic historian/debunker, I was clued in very early to the activism of what would soon become the Satanic Temple. A local Utah self-styled ‘therapist’ sought to exploit a mentally ill woman and write an awful satanic ritual abuse ‘memoir’ in the vein of “Michelle Remembers” for profit. Through various online efforts, I saw Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves and his associates aggressively debunk the book and its unscrupulous author, and advocate for the woman’s well-being.

Director Penny Lane put together her documentary Hail Satan? and provided us a funny, compelling narrative about the beginning and the possible future of the Satanic Temple. We’re taken through various activism projects that Greaves and the Temple executed, including the infamous debacle over the statue of Baphomet that never quite made it onto the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol. We’re given a clear picture of the group’s beginnings and how, by the time their movement gained traction, they decided to transform it into an atheistic religion. You can read their seven tenets right here.

Goddamn these cuddly socially conscious Satanists – I miss old school black-robed virgin sacrificing horror movie devil worshippers!

Greaves is a central character, but we are also shown some of the people who joined the Temple and what exactly it was that drew them to it. We meet Jex Blackmore, a former member whose extreme call of resistance against the Trump administration put her at irreconcilable odds with the group. I wish I could have asked Lane at the Q&A if she was tempted to follow Jex’s story.

Ultimately, Hail Satan? was really about the birth of an atheist religious movement. There’s no contradiction here.

 

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