You would think an organisation named The Satanic Temple would be serious stuff, but these agitators are nothing like the devil worshippers portrayed in the media. Demanding true democracy, The Satanic Temple serves as a community for those willing to fight for the rights of every citizen in America, even if their approach seems a tad left-field.
Those familiar with Penny Lane’s Nuts! (NZIFF16) will know her penchant for stories that are stranger than fiction, and Hail Satan? is no exception. A story of an actor, a believer and a divided organisation, Lane’s dive into the inner workings of The Satanic Temple introduces us to co-founder Lucien Greaves, who is embroiled in a lawsuit to allow the Temple to place a 2.6-metre-tall sculpture of Baphomet at the Oklahoma State Capitol to complement the existing Ten Commandments monument. The crowdfunded creation is only part of the story... and it’s not even the strangest part.
Recalling the satanic panic of the 1980s and 90s, the formation of Anton LeVay’s Church of Satan (their official statement on the film is a great read) and the American moral panic of the 1950s, Greaves eloquently justifies the creation of the Temple as a place of sanity and social conscience. The film features interviews with current members who have found a family in their local Temple group. It’s no surprise that following production, Lane announced she felt “very aligned with/allied with TST’s mission.”
Through a wealth of archival footage and beautifully illustrated sequences, Hail Satan? explores the deep irony of America’s religious zealots, while providing viewers with hope that The Satanic Temple will continue its good fight. — Kailey Carruthers