Lucien Greaves, Jex Blackmore, Chalice Blythe
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…it’s hard not to appreciate these ideological underdogs when they troll the viciously homophobic Westboro Baptist Church by having a same sex ceremony on founder Fred Phelps’ mother’s grave.
The word “Satanist” tends to conjure lurid images of bald, beardy blokes in black robes sacrificing scantily-clad, firm-chested virgins at the altar of some goat-headed deity, but if Hail Satan? is to be taken at its word, you shouldn’t believe the hype. In fact, the Satanists at the heart of Penny Lane’s entertaining documentary seem exactly the type of people you’d have over for an afternoon barbie, perhaps followed by a beaut backyard orgy.
The engaging caper centres mainly around Lucien Greaves (not his real name), the co-founder and spokesman for The Satanic Temple. Lucien looks the part of a Satanic leader, with a dead eye and a perpetual smirk, however, when he speaks, he’s about as reasonable a chap as you can imagine. The general aim of these Satanists, as opposed to their horror movie counterparts, seems to be less about eating babies and more about pointing out the hypocrisy of having monuments celebrating The Ten Commandments at government buildings in America, when the constitution enshrines the separation of church and state.
The Satanists therefore crowdfund their own religions monument, a massive bronze statue of goat-headed Baphomet, and test out the limits of the United States’ commitment to “religious freedom”.
Hail Satan? is at its best when we’re watching our black-clad subjects scandalise wide-eyed American evangelicals by using their own logic against them, often being much more articulate and less alarmist while doing so.
Hail Satan? isn’t perfect, mind you, for every section that exposes the truth of the ‘80s and ‘90s “Satanic panic” (which is absolutely fascinating and appalling), there’s an equal number of talking head interviews with Satanists repeating the same talking points almost verbatim. Still, it’s hard not to appreciate these ideological underdogs when they troll the viciously homophobic Westboro Baptist Church by having a same sex ceremony on founder Fred Phelps’ mother’s grave. Or when they troll protesters outside abortion clinics for fetishising the existence of fetuses at the cost of adult women’s dignity.
In fact, the biggest take away from Hail Satan? is that these people may be trolls, they might just be taking the piss and having a go at the religious right, but they’re also cleaning highways, feeding the homeless and helping marginalised groups while doing so. Does it matter if they have a genuine conviction, or just a dark sense of humour, when they’re doing actual good in the real world? Plus, one thing you can say for Satanists, they’ll never wake you up and try to sell their “good book” on a Sunday morning, because that right there is just downright evil.