Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 400-Word Review: Hail Satan?

The documentary about the (non-theistic) Satanic Temple explores the controversial religion's origins and goals.

Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures

Right off the bat: This movie isn’t about Satan.

“Hail Satan?,” a documentary from “Our Nixon” creator Penny Lane, isn’t about Satan because it’s about the Satanic Temple — which itself is not actually about Satan. The Satanic Temple is a non-theistic religious organization which draws some inspiration from the mid-century ramblings of Anton LaVey; while the Temple adopts some stereotypically evil and pagan images, they are fundamentally a humanist organization, whose key precepts are free and peaceful existence and a firm opposition to public moralizing.

Of course, that doesn’t stop their many, many detractors from believing they’re all about the big red demon.

“Hail Satan?” traces the establishment and rapid growth of the church, which pops up in the news when it campaigns for the separation of church and state. Among the causes célèbres enumerated in the film: They fought against a non-secular invocation before government proceedings in Arizona; they battled restrictive reproductive-rights bills in the south; and, most notably, they combatted an Oklahoma effort to mount a statue of the Ten Commandments at the state house — by applying to mount a statue of goat-headed demon Baphomet next to it.

The film is mostly a chronicle of those efforts, depicting moments ranging from comical (reciting the specific dimensions of their goat-god sculpture to a civic planning commission) to terrifying (postponing events after death threats). We meet some of the key figures behind the movement; the chronicle of one member, Jex Blackmore, who was removed from the group for overstepping with the evil rhetoric, is fascinating. Thankfully, we also meet some of the rank-and-file, learning why the average person might be inclined to join a non-theistic but highly dramatic (and widely reviled) religious order.

Lane handles the subject matter with respect and wit, though there might’ve been some room for a bit more innovation; material this juicy demands a more festive treatment than talking heads and news footage. For the most part, though, it’s an enlightening and captivating watch.

It’s also a bit terrifying. As much as it’s a curiosity, “Hail Satan?” is also a troubling document of a certain bullheadedness which seems to have primacy in American dialogue. The members of the Temple are remarkably eager to tell you who they are and what they believe. Everyone they meet, however, thinks they know better. Trust me: By the time the credits roll, you’ll be siding with the Satanists.

My Rating: 7/10

“Hail Satan?” will open Friday, May 17, for a one-week run at Regent Square Theater.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Perspectives: The Gift of Practice

I love this word, “practice.” It is an exercise, a pattern, a rhythm to set your weeks to ... and it's cheaper than therapy.

Back to School: 20 Famous Pittsburghers' Yearbook Photos

Can you put names to the faces of these notable Pittsburgh graduates?

Pirates’ Epitaph: July 2019 – The Bucs Stopped Here

Clint Hurdle’s team was respectable, and in a contending position at the All-Star break. Then the bottom fell out, and the Pirates have looked like Little Leaguers ever since. All that remains now is to see how far they can actually sink.

The 400-Word Review: American Factory

This impressive documentary, produced in part by Barack and Michelle Obama, is loaded with insight and perspective.

The 400-Word Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon

"The Peanut Butter Falcon," an indie comedy with great performances, thinks a bit more of itself than it earns.

The 400-Word Review: Ready or Not

Don't mistake this for another half-hearted teen scream. "Ready or Not" is an enjoyable horror satire.

Don't Let Headlines Keep You Away from the South Side

The weekend volcano went off on East Carson on Saturday night. That doesn't mean the neighborhood has a fundamental problem.

Steelers Challenge: Making the Most of Big Ben’s Final Years

The Steelers couldn’t find a franchise quarterback between Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger. Now, with Roethlisberger as the sole remaining link to the team’s Super Bowl success, the time for another championship run is now — or it might not be for a while.

Restaurant Review: Alta Via

With its first new restaurant in 15 years, the big Burrito Restaurant Group proves it still has it.

The Amazing and Important Things Being Taught Off Campus

For Pittsburgh’s universities, some of the most dynamic research and learning take place beyond campus borders.

A Helping Hand: School Supplies as Easy as ABC

The Education Partnership helps teachers get what they need without breaking the bank.

Coworking Gets Down to Business in Pittsburgh

Sharing a workspace becomes more than just a place to plug in a laptop for entrepreneurs seeking an environment where they interact and help others.

Find Out How to Play Hockey at the Bottom of a Pool

Penguins skate on the ice; stingrays swim below it. See what happens when they toss the puck in the pool.

A Unique Honor for the King of Dukes

Duquesne basketball legend Chuck Cooper broke the NBA’s color line in 1950; next year, he’s getting a posthumous, one-of-a-kind honor at his former campus.

Our 50 Years: Myron Cope on Sports

In the earliest years of Pittsburgh Magazine, we didn’t quite know how to cover sports — so we just let Myron Cope say whatever he wanted.