Satanism in Film
Dating back as far the early silent era of cinema, Hollywood has had a fascination with the thrills and chills of devil worshiping madmen. Haxan: (or Witchcraft Through the Ages) is one of the more notorious first examples of filmmakers use of these ideas, and while director Benjamin Christensen was exploring on how superstition and misunderstanding can lead to hysteria that birthed the witch hunts, in 1922, scenes of a Black Mass with violence, nudity, sexual perversion, and graphic scenes of babies dying, was too much for the Roaring Twenties, and the film soon disappeared.
Criterion has since released the film on DVD back to its original intent, after various censors throughout the years began cutting certain scenes for censorship, but the notion of devil worship to be used as a story device scare audience was evident. Most recently, in 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, Mark Strong’s character of Lord Blackwood is firmly a typical Hollywood devil worshiper cliche. The use of black magic, occult setting, and his black robe, are all the stereotypes we’ve seen in film. “Hollywood is portraying devil worshipers in their horror films, not Satanists,” says Magus Peter H. Gilmore, a High Priest in the Church of Satan.
“Satanism is based on atheism, has no belief in the supernatural and does not contain any element of sacrifice in its ritual or other practices. Since Satan is seen by Christians and people who have been influenced by Christian culture as the ultimate Evil, then depicting people who worship and have an alliance with this greatest “super villain” makes great entertainment for the masses,” continued Gilmore. Films such as The Black Cat (1934), Night of the Demon (1957), I Drink Your Blood (1971), and others has used these ideas for pure thrills and exploitation, in order to scare an audience. “In order to use a religion to generate fear, people outside of it have to think that this religion has bad plans for them, so the idea that devil worshipers want to ‘get’ you is an easy way to create scare factors in a screenplay,” explains High Priest Peter Gilmore on Hollywood use of their so-called Satanism.
“For us seeing the range of use of both our symbols and the Satan archetype,” explains High Priest Peter Gilmore, “we are often amused at how so many people involved in film production have decided to rely on cliché rather than doing some research regarding the truth of contemporary Satanism.” While there are a few forms of Satanism, as a religion it didn’t form until Anton LaVey formed the Church of Satan in 1966. Sometimes referred to as LaVeyan Satanism, the religion has a codified system with the release of “The Satanic Bible” in 1969. This form of Satanism is based on atheism, and has no belief in the supernatural and does not contain any element of sacrifice in its ritual or other practices. But these ideas don’t sell tickets to the latest horror film.
Films like the Omen series, Beyond the Door (1977), Satan’s School for Girls (1973), Born of Fire (1983), and others often portray a connection almost religiously to Satan. “Our rituals are psychodramas meant as self-therapy, not acts of worship. We consider that films which depict people worshiping Satan show people who are just as deluded as those who worship Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, Zeus, Thor, or any other deity as they all are man made myths. Sometimes these films can be entertaining, and at times they even verge on a Satanic perspective,” explains High Priest Peter Gilmore. “With Al Pacino’s portrayal of Satan in The Devil’s Advocate (1997) there was a Satan who acted like a Satanist for the most part. He gave his son some appropriately infernal advice along the way to educating him about the ways of the world. And having Satan as an almost all-powerful attorney heading a major legal firm was a fine updating on ancient myths. Viewers of the film should note that Satan gives those who deserve it the choice to make their own decisions and face the consequences, and free will and self-responsibility are major values of Satanic philosophy.”
“Every once in a while there’s a devil on screen like Darkness in Legend (1985),” champions High Priest Peter Gilmore, “who really is impressive and who does spout some bit of Satanism – that figure accurately said that ‘We are all animals’.”
“There are just too many cheap, dopey movies with shabby devil worshipers performing criminal acts and in general they stink as films,” laughs High Priest Peter Gilmore, “regardless of their depiction of what they erroneously call Satanism. It is more fun to look at movies that employ devil worship but which include some aspects of genuine Satanism.” In 1981’s Evilspeak starring the creepy Clint Howard, as the nerdy loser Coopersmith, who is brutalized by fellow students at a military academy. He retreats into the only thing he knows well, which is computers, and summons up the spirit of a defunct devil-worshiping priest to help him get revenge against the boys who wrongly terrorizing him. The notion of seeking revenge for wrong doings against you, is a thoroughly Satanic idea, and the scenes were the bullies kill Coopersmith’s dog, is a tragic scene, for which Satanists regard animals in higher regard than humans. Sorry horror film fans, sacrificing animals is a pure Hollywood fabrication and misconception of Satanism.
High Priest Peter Gilmore explains on what films get Satanism right: “In Blanche Barton’s book “The Church of Satan,” there are lists of films and books which contain aspects of Satanic philosophy as a field guide for viewing. On that list you’ll find such seemingly disparate films as Inherit the Wind (1960) showing a defense of atheism against Christian dominance and Roman Scandals (1933), an Eddie Cantor comedy about social foibles set in ancient Rome. You’ll also find Blade Runner (1982) which superbly examines what it means to be a human animal, whether one is born or made, Citizen Kane (1941) which shows how a man who lives for others cannot achieve happiness despite great wealth, and Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940) which has a stunning depiction of the Russian devil Chernabog for Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain symphonic poem – itself a Satanic classic. That book is undergoing revision and when re-released will include an expanded film list.”
Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, has had an interesting relationship with film. The 1975 film, The Devil’s Rain, used LaVey as a technical advisory for the film’s production, even giving him a cameo role. The film follows a B-movie plot of selling souls in jars to Satan Himself, but LaVey let the filmmakers texts from the liturgy of the Church of Satan, as well as coaching the Mexican extras on how to chant certain hymns correctly. But his biggest association to film, was when he was quoted on saying Rosemary’s Baby (1968) was “the best paid commercial for Satanism since the Inquisition.” High Priest Peter Gilmore explains the quote:
“Rosemary’s Baby as both a novel and film got people to think about Satanism existing in the current world, rather than it being some weird part of the past. Even though real Satanists are not trying to summon up the Prince of Darkness to impregnate women – willing or not – that this film and book showed Satanists as a wide range of human types, from eccentrics to wealthy businessmen and even the folks next door, was revolutionary for the time and has not been equaled or surpassed since.” Even though the framework is essentially devil worship, there are certain Satanic aspects in the film, as well as some of the others in this article.
“The usual parade of daffy devil worship is something that we ignore for the most part, whether it be spewed by anti-Christian metal bands or ends up in comics or films,” says High Priest Peter Gilmore. “It would take some bravery for a film maker to depict Satanism as it really is, showing the life-loving Satanist as a self-realized egoist who would be looked to for support by other characters in the film, while the bad guy could easily be a fanatical member of a Christian or Muslim sect, bombing abortion clinics, molesting children, or committing any of the numerous crimes against civilization that have been documented as really being perpetrated by these “godly” folks. The spiritual religions are ones that people should be afraid of since criminal acts by their adherents consistent with their beliefs are well-documented.”
“In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) we see Gene Wilder as a very devilish figure who dispenses justice – another one of our principles. The kids and parents in that film get precisely what they deserve. It concludes with an essential Satanic concept: ‘Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted – he lived happily ever after’. That encapsulates our perspective of guilt-free existence. Idiocracy (2006) used mockery, another Satanic trait, to show what our society could become and what already is happening – so funny, but so true. Our misanthropic view of the human species is reflected quite well in that movie.
As seen in this past Sherlock Holmes Satanism in film isn’t gone, as Ti West’s House of the Devil hits Blu-ray and DVD soon, and whatever misinterpretation of the religion filmmakers will use next, horror isn’t the champion one would initially think of the religion. “We look to more essentially diabolical recent films such as There Will Be Blood (2007), which explores the potency of ambition and the evil of breaking one’s pride which comes from Christianity, or WALL.E (2008), which showed how humans could likely devolve following current consumer-culture trends and required a jump-start from a self-evolved robot who came to possess consciousness and passion that had been lost by people. Some of our own members working in the film industry may very well break new ground in the near future, and then Satanists the world over will have an accurate depiction of themselves to point towards.”
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