On Saturday the Another Hole in the Head presented the world premiere of Satan Hates You, a hard-to-define genre film written and directed by James Felix McKenney. Talking briefly before the screening, McKenney said the film was an homage/parody of the scared-straight-to-Jesus films made in the sixties and seventies. I'm not sure where he grew up, but I've never seen one of those films, though I have heard of them. Maybe an exposure would have given me a greater appreciation for the film, but the main impression it left with me was puzzlement about McKenney's underlying motives for making the film in the first place.
Satan Hates You has a weird combination of horror movies veterans and actors that look like they're in it strictly because the know McKenney. Phantasm's Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm have prominent roles, as does Michael Berryman from The Devil's Rejects and The Hills Have Eyes. The presence of these guys gives the film some credibility (at least as far as this genre goes) but after thinking about this I'd say if you make it worth their while they'll probably show up for just anything. I mean, no one is casting them in "Breaking Bad" or something more visible to make them pickier about what roles they take.
In the movie we follow two people, Marc and Wendy, as they follow their individual paths to the hands of Satan and an inevitable trip to hell. Marc is a closeted homosexual alcoholic who sits at Bannister's bar every night drinking a "six point and a bourbon" who insists he's not gay and whenever anyone suggests that he is- like the guy he wakes up in bed with one morning after- he brutally murders them and dumps their body into the trash.
Wendy is an underage, drug-addicted slut who like to do crystal and have sex in the stall of the men's room in Bannister's bar, the more times in a night the better. She lives with her drug-addict older sister and their mutual tarot-card reading, crystal-snorting lesbian friend seems to always be on hand. When she isn't doing blow in one form or another, Wendy likes to watch Angus Scrimm read the bible on television because he seems like the most honest man there is.
In fact, on every TV in this movie, the same religious programs play over and over again. Seriously, what bar on Earth would have a Christian TV station playing in the background? In this film, if a TV is on, someone is talking about Jesus. Now maybe this was the convention of the films McKenney is working from, but as parody it doesn't really work. The movie plays too much like a gleefully bloody version of the real thing, including a long ending that has both Marc and Wendy giving their lives to Jesus and getting saved, only to end in an O. Henry-like twist where they get to go to heaven a lot sooner than we may have thought. The movie's tagline "God loves you, Satan hates you," seems to be sincerely meant by the film's end, but who the hell wants to pay $10 to see that?
While it makes sense to a certain extent given the genre, the anti-gay agenda of the movie goes a bit too far for my tastes as does all of the bible reading. Is this really a parody? Or is it an homage by someone who really believes the road to hell is paved with sex, drugs and homosexuality but who himself is an out-of-the-closet horror fan and seeking to make one kind of movie under the guise of another? The greatest evidence that McKenney isn't really mocking the genre is the abortion scene. It's the one really disturbing part of the movie and McKenney obviously relishes putting the gory details of the procedure onscreen to the point of nausea. He tips his hand however, or that of the aborted fetus, when it emerges from a jar of bloody muck and moves its tiny fingers.
Another thing that bothered me about Satan Hates You is its racial casting. Beezlebub has two hot, salacious attendants- both black women in bikinis. They are the only black faces in the entire film and there isn't much more diversity on display. Why is that? Is that sort of racial-typecasting necessary in an updated treatment? If it is, why not go whole hog and give those two women more evil things to do as Satan's minions. Speaking of Satan's minions, there are two white, cheaply-horned devils clad in red velvet tuxedos who camp their way through the whole film, vying for Marc and Wendy's souls. Seriously.
The film plays again on 07/13/10 at 5:00 pm at the Roxie. I don't recommend it, but if you're into this sort of thing or know more about this genre than I do, maybe you'll appreciate it.
Tickets and the rest of the Hole in the Head schedule are here.