Hail Satan?
(Penny Lane)

An image from Penny Lane’s  Hail Satan?  {Photo: Magnolia Pictures}

An image from Penny Lane’s Hail Satan? {Photo: Magnolia Pictures}

Penny Lane’s Hail Satan? does the duty of characterizing her subject, the Satanic Temple, as an ostentatious parade of misfits, though teeters exceedingly close to being an exercise in hagiography. Detailing the rise of the Satanic Temple, with Lane interviewing the church’s founder and charismatic spokesperson Lucien Greaves, the documentary is boiled down to a series of vignettes that examine the numerous ways Greaves and his cohorts disrupt the status quo. With Christianity becoming an exceedingly prevalent force in contemporary politics, Greaves takes it upon himself to function as a kind of checks and balances. When a Ten Commandants statue is to be erected on the Arkansas capital grounds, Greaves and his team hope to place their own statue as a means of suggesting religious plurality. The film is at its most persuasive when it explores the humanistic qualities associated with the Temple’s beliefs, centering their concerns less on spirituality and more as a political weapon.  It’s unimaginable that anyone would take umbrage with the Temple’s seven tenet beliefs, though my issues with the film primarily have to do with Lane’s innocuous direction and the haphazard way in which the film is composed. There’s not much in the way of trajectory in how the film is steered, with much of Hail Satan? feeling like a series of non sequiturs and asides. The result is an uneven film, one that seems to value the puckishness of the Satanic Temple’s leaders rather than the intricacies by which the religion (hopes to) operate as a true oppositional force.