An American Satan interviews members of the modern-day Church of Satan, founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey. The congregation appears largely straight and white, though one gay member and one black member are interviewed.
Philosophically, “Satanism is an atheist philosophy that uses Satan as an symbol of Pride, Individualism and liberty,” according to high priest Peter H. Gilmore, who has some dramatic-sounding title and degree level, as do all those interviewed. At its heart, as revealed in this documentary, Satanism is atheist, rational, and tends toward the Libertarian (though they do not use this term). Members are pro-gun, anti-PC, and, as I said, largely straight and white. Female members seem to appear naked in many of the rituals. Makes sense, as lust is not considered a sin within the church.
The documentary is in clear parts: How people found the church, the life of Anton LaVey, the theistic spin-off branches The Chaos Imperium and the Temple of Set, and Adam Cardone‘s theories of theology, politics and why organized religion is evil, the first amendment should be treated as absolute, guns are important and there’s no such thing as hate speech.
But, as I say, there is one Black member, Michaelantony Mandrake. “We do discriminate. As a black man in the Church of Satan, I can say, it’s not racial,” he says. Perhaps we should take his word on it and not judge them for the extremely narrow demographic in … New York and San Francisco, where most of the documentary takes place.
And they do present that one gay man I mentioned, Aden Ardennes, who edits a magazine called Horns, with the subtitle, “where the occultists cum.”
I don’t know, this is all pleasant enough, and honestly I am nitpicking because there’s not a lot of content. It’s like a recruiting video, while they adamantly state they don’t recruit. It’s not clear who this is for. Is it to assuage the fears of those that succumbed to the Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s? Is it something to show your parents when you tell them you’ve joined? Is it a sizzle reel for people who want to be cast in occult-themed rock videos? Is it Satanism 101 for newbies?
All in all, it casts the church as terribly banal, where the kids who described themselves as weird and dangerous in Junior High go when they turn middle-aged.
They do, for the record, very clearly say that everyone in the church is different, so it is possible these folks are not entirely representative. It’s possible that no group of about 20 members would be entirely representative.
I will say this for it: these are clearly real people, as Hollywood casting would require all the men be baritones for the proper spooky effect.
3 out of 10.666