Jex Blackmore in 'Hail Satan?'

The devil and a tempting, ripe documentary subject made Penny Lane do it. The director, hailed for 2013’s Our Nixon, has cooked up a weirdly fascinating, multilayered profile of the fledgling organization known as The Satanic Temple, with chapters around the nation and a few thousand members strong. Coolly charismatic leader Lucien Greaves ascribes TST as a “a counter balance to the deeply held beliefs of religion in America,” while members cite a core allegiance to a spirit of rebellion and compassion, citing its goal of “directly confronting corruption and evil practices. Activism is a Satanic practice.” The film follows the group’s orchestration of media stunts, public performance art, and lawsuits over abortion and the right to erect Satanic “Baphomet” statues to counteract Ten Commandment statues at State Capitols (originally promotional items linked to the Charlton Heston–featured Ten Commandments film). Lane lavishes us with Satanic and also Christian kitsch through the decades, including the “Satanic panic” of the ’50s and ’60s, which became akin to a witch hunt (TST has its headquarters in Salem, incidentally). Lane’s intriguing, often darkly cheeky film is more about religious freedom, zealotry, oppression, and the desire to subvert than the Man Downstairs.


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