Satanic Temple Leader Attended Sundance to Alter the "Narrative" About Satanism

Lucien Greaves was on the scene in Park City to boost 'Hail Satan?,' a doc tracking the growth of his movement.
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Lucien Greaves

"It's really not that cold — we got lucky with the weather," says Lucien Greaves, on a particularly lovely 40 degree afternoon in Park City. No matter who you talk to at Sundance the conversation usually leads with comments about the weather, even when you are speaking with the leader of the Satanic Temple.

Greaves was at Sundance to help boost Hail Satan?, a doc tracking the inception and growth of the Temple (nearly 100,000 members and climbing since its founding in 2013). “We are at the point where the Pew polls are going to have to start accounting for satanists,” says Greaves.

Hail Satan? has been picked up ahead of the fest by Magnolia, which is currently in the awards race with doc RBG. Greaves and the Temple agreed to do the documentary to create a more thorough record of their movement and possibly dispel decades worth of ingrained misconceptions that the Satanic Temple inherited. Some of those misconceptions have been perpetuated by Hollywood's Satan-centric fare, which includes installments from Polanski to Carpenter.

“It is not benign, even in fiction, when people propagate the Satanic Panic narrative of the 1980s and 1990s,” Greaves explains. “You will see those narratives play out on a television series or movies that come out in Hollywood and they do seem to color people’s perceptions of what they believe and what Satanism means.”

While he has not seen American Horror Story’s latest season, which drew criticism from the Church of Satan for an inaccurate depiction of founder Anton LaVey, and cannot speak about Satan-inclusive The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (a copyright dispute over a statue of a goat deity called Baphomet was settled with Netflix), Greaves sees a growing interest in Satanism as a chance to educate.

“That is a good way to see how culture is accepting a movement, to see what kind of fiction starts resonating with people,” he says. With Hail Satan?, the hope is to set the record straight for Hollywood and beyond: “We are changing the narrative.”

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.