Film review: Hail Satan? (2019)

I recently watched this documentary on The Satanic Temple that I previewed earlier. It is an enjoyable film, informative and quite funny in parts, that looks at the origins of the group, what their aims are, and how they set about trying to achieve their goals. It seemed to have started out as a lark to troll religious conservatives, with stunts such as members dressed in what people think is appropriate Satanic dress holding a press conference on the steps of the Florida state capitol building to endorse right wing Florida governor Rick Scott, who clearly did not want their endorsement.

But as these actions gained publicity, their membership grew rapidly from just a handful of people to tens of thousands with branches forming all over the globe. This brought with it problems, such as how to maintain its anarchic free-wheeling spirit while not allowing individual members and branches to do things that violated some basic principles of the movement, such as being non-violent. That tension is always present when small groups expand and try to remain coherent about their core mission.

There are a lot of interviews with members, many of whom use pseudonyms and whose faces are blurred out of fear of retaliation, about why they joined. It seemed like most did so out of a desire to challenge the notion that the US is a Christian nation, but to do in a provocatively humorous way, such as putting their statue of Baphomet alongside any Ten Commandments monument that was placed on public property. But they are also fighting broader social injustices, many of which have roots in American conservative religion. As one of them said, the hostile way that people react to Satanists is emblematic of how they react to anyone perceived as the ‘other’, and they are trying to get people to understand how irrational that response is.

They are clearly not religious but as one of them said, atheism by itself is boring because it is just the negation of religious belief. By joining the Satanic Temple they found camaraderie with like-minded people who enjoyed dressing up in exotic costumes, creating rituals, and having a good time, while at the same time engaging in activism for causes they believe in. They look like a bunch of people with whom it would be fun to hang out.

Here’s the trailer.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *