They first cropped up seemingly out of nowhere about six years ago, adorned in black capes with curved devil horns affixed to their heads, holding posters and black American flags as they shouted ‘Hail, Satan’ on the steps of government institutions from Arkansas and Florida to Oklahoma and Detroit. The antics and declarations seemed like a hoax to many – onlookers and journalists and politicians alike – until it became apparent that members of newly-formed The Satanic Temple were here to stay.
And they were growing, exponentially. Since TST’s founding in 2012, the organization has increased from a handful of members to tens of thousands, with chapters all over the US and the globe, from Stockholm to London and Los Angeles to Texas. And their ‘pranksterism,’ as filmmaker Penny Lane first considered it, has given way to a well-conceived ethos, forming an organized ‘religion’ for a ‘group of contrarians’ opposed to any organization at all.
The Satanic Temple, it seems, is becoming more and more firmly established across the United States – largely composed of individuals who don’t even worship Satan in the first place but center on a different interpretation of biblical teachings. And Lane’s new documentary about the group, premiering later this month at Utah’s famed Sundance Film Festival, paints a surprising portrait of the unlikely ‘religion’ – one which has challenged even the preconceived notions of the director herself.
‘The reason this became a feature length documentary was that I found so many interesting surprises at each stage of discovery,’ says Lane, the title of whose documentary – Hail, Satan? – fittingly addresses the controversy surrounding the relatively neophyte group.