FFF REVIEW — “Hail Satan?”
Evil backward is Live
Hail Satan? is directed by Penny Lane and follows the quick rise and influence of the controversial religious group known as The Satanic Temple. Now, this documentary made quite a splash at the Sundance Film Festival and we, unfortunately, missed out on seeing it there, but we were lucky enough to catch it at this year’s Florida Film Festival and oh boy are we glad we did. Hail Satan? is a fascinating, hilarious, firey documentary that shines a light on a misunderstood group of people, while also telling a compelling story of political activism in the modern age. The being said, it did feel a bit weird seeing this the day before Easter.
Penny Lane directs here and she does a great job. She was given a great deal of access to the events as they unfold and being a member of the Satanic Temple herself, she does a fine job portraying this group of people fairly. Satanists are a fantastic subject for a documentary and with a group as new and misunderstood as The Satanic Temple, we have the perfect setup for a riveting documentary. We as audience members not only get to learn what modern-day Satanism is, but we get to see this small group of pranksters grow and develop into one of the biggest religious movements in recent years. While I’m not gonna rush out and become a Satanist, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t agree with some of their beliefs, which sounds blasphemous to say. And this is something Lanes knows and she presents it in this very tongue in cheek way, which provides for some of the funniest moments in a film. I never imagined an audience would be this into a documentary about Satanism. People were cheering and clapping and rightfully so. It’s a damn entertaining film.
One of the best aspects of Hail Satan? is that it not only serves as an informative documentary of modern-day Satanism, but it’s also a fiery political expose at times. While we learn about their beliefs and practices, we see their political activism in real-time. We get to see some great behind the scenes footage of them developing these hilarious political stunts and pranks, which more often than not have real-world impacts. These Satanists are reminiscent of groups like Anonymous or even people like Sascha Baren Coen. They pull off pranks that they believe in and take seriously and you really start to root for them. The only real disappointment with the film is that it doesn’t end with Satanists victorious, but that’s real life’s fault, not the film. I’d love to see a follow-up film in a few years detailing what they’ve been up too.
Another fascinating aspect of the film, is we get to see this organization grow and develop. There are pitfalls, mistakes, failures, and controversies they traverse and it’s a treat to watch. Lane has some really great behind the scenes footage, and you really see this movement form. Where the group starts and where the group ends is really remarkable and, as I previously said, you start to root for them. You really feel their losses and almost become defensive of them. There’s a storyline of an important member of the Temple of Satin who goes “rogue” and it’s fascinating to watch. Lane got really lucky when she picked this group to follow because they really have a wild story.
In short, Hail Satan? is a hilarious documentary telling a truly fascinating story about a truly fascinating group of people. 4/5