Hail Satan? (2019)

Hail Satan?
Director: Penny Lane
Seen on: 6./7.2.2023

In 2012, a group of activists came together to applaud Florida Governor Rick Scott’s support for school prayer. They did so as a Satanic church, to criticize the lack of division between church and state in the Governor’s stance. What started more as a prank, quickly gained traction and a short time later, the Satanic Temple was founded, with its main objective to promote religious pluralism in the USA, and even elsewhere.

Hail Satan? is an entertaining and enlightening documentary about the Satanic Temple and its history. It will probably teach you something new, and even if it doesn’t, it spins a good tale.

The film poster showing the statue of Lady Liberty with the head of Baphomet, two fingers raised in salute.

I was more or less familiar with the commandments of the Satanic Temple, so I knew going into the film that I agreed with them a lot – and that their beliefs are not shaped by Christians’ fears of Satan but rather by tragic takes on Satan like Milton’s Paradise Lost. That being said, I knew nothing about the history of the Satanic Temple and the film gives a really nice and succinct summary of the activism that led to their creation.

Lane has a flair for narrative, and there is always a mischievous glint in the way she unfolds the story that keeps things really entertaining. Nevertheless, she takes things seriously and doesn’t make fun of the activism – just highlights the absurdities that they themselves use to expose the double standards regarding religious freedom. It’s a nice fit of tone and subject matter that serves the film very well.

Lucien Greaves giving a speech next to the statue of Baphomet.

The film is filled to the brim with history, and other, tidbits that are really eye-opening. The main jaw-on-the-floor moment for me was when it was revealed that the monument of the 10 commandments placed in front of a government building and becoming a point of contention for the Satanic Temple (either all religions, including their statue of Baphomet should be represented there, or no religions at all) – this monument was actually a marketing ploy for the release of the film The Ten Commandments. Yes, the one with Charlton Heston.

The film delves a little into the inner-Temple conflict between Lucien Greaves and Jex Blackmore, and I wouldn’t have minded if it had spent a little more time with that. Especially Blackmore’s perspective was a little short-changed, I thought. Nevertheless, this is a highly entertaining, slightly provocative and above all really informative documentary that I can only recommend.

A small satanic protest in front of the capitol.

Summarizing: have fun while you learn stuff and probably become a Satanist yourself.

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