Hypocrisy has been baked into the United States ever since it was founded by slave-owners who wanted to be free. After the experimental historical documentaries Nuts! and Our Nixon, Penny Lane’s more straightforward Hail Satan? is about events from the 2010s, but is no less informed by that hypocrisy. Satan? looks at the rise of The Satanic Temple, a considerably more woke version of Anton LaVey’s original, apolitical Church of Satan. The throughline is the Temple’s crusade to place a statue of Baphomet in front of the capitol building in Little Rock, Ark.
The Temple’s logic was that a monument of the Ten Commandments had been erected there, and since religious liberty is allegedly such a big deal in this country, then the Temple should also be at liberty to place their own religious monument there. Chaos ensues, and unsurprisingly, much of the excerpted media coverage of controversy comes from the shocked, shocked talking heads of Fox News. (With brow furrowed, Tucker Carlson refers to Satanism as “a fake media thing,” because he is an idiot.) The question mark in Hail Satan?’s title may seem to suggest ambiguity on director Lane’s part, but when the Seven Tenets of Satanism are compared to the Ten Commandments, it’s clear only an exclamation mark will do. Hail Satan!
Not rated. Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.