The product of thousands of devil-centric found footage clips slowed down, sped up, and spliced together, “The Great Satan” is a profoundly dense 75 minutes of Christian hip-hop puppets, the little known superhero “Bibleman,” pasty televangelists proclaiming that “if you listen to heavy metal music, the devil will make you kill your mom,” occult porn, somehow a lot of singing ducks, and even more cursory blips of what just happened at Vine speed.
This dizzying visual essay on humanity’s desperate attempts to both squash and indulge in hedonism is the work of Everything Is Terrible, the Los Angeles-based collective responsible for six found footage features including a remake of “Holy Mountain” comprised entirely of dog-related clips, plus a still-growing collection of 15,000 “Jerry Maguire” VHS tapes amassed to eventually form a pyramid in the desert. EIT will present “The Great Satan” with a live show complete with costumes and puppets at the Parkway on March 7 as part of their nationwide tour (during which they will be accepting “Jerry Maguire” VHS donations).
While “The Great Satan” leaves one spinning and likely nauseated, it’s the logical culmination of modern life, especially for viewers like myself who were born during and in the wake of Satanic panic and whose religious upbringing coincided with the dawn of YouTube and randomcore. EIT approaches found footage filmmaking as an exquisite corpse: In this case, Satan is something of a unifier as the film shuffles through a loosely connected stream of thematic threads ranging from dogs to she-demons, drugs to literal rebirth, law enforcement to Dungeons & Dragons, demonstrating that the devil is indeed everywhere you turn.
The majority of these clips are saturated with a certain dread—the laughing-to-keep-from-crying kind that comes with the glass half empty sense that nothing matters—that would be paralyzing if not for the rapid fire speed that leaves no time to dwell, which is really a blessing. Audio of children singing a quasi-reggae rendition of Matthew 6:34—“Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself”—plays over footage of a sad polar bear sitting on melting ice cap. The most time we’re given to meditate on a single image is about 15 seconds, and it’s just a single shot of an obese, bewildered cat sitting up next to the words “it’s a wonderful life” painted in what appears to be blood. The rest is too-brief-to-register snippets of dicks getting ripped off in B-horror movies, that one brilliant hip-hop number from “Teen Witch,” a poorly rendered CGI demon fucking a guy from behind, and celebrity cameos from Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Bee Gees, a three-eyed Whoopi Goldberg, what appears to be a young Keegan Michael Key of “Key & Peele,” and Gene Simmons, obviously.
Soon enough, Christian, Satanic, and secular material become fairly indistinguishable. Every fragment feels like humanity flailing about in search of direction where there is none, twisting some moral significance out of anything and everything. Here, evil at work looks like feminism, Limp Bizkit, and a man’s face adhered to a wall like a taxidermy buck head claiming that he’s there “hiding from god.” Righteousness is praying with such intensity that it literally sets off explosions in Satan’s lair. Dredged in historical precedent, ministry as warfare is taken to the next level here; cue a beheading montage set to the kids’ marching tune ‘I’m in the Lord’s Army.’
Altogether, this is unequivocally an endurance test, less a hate watch than exposure therapy to human folly distilled into its core kitsch. Heed the advice delivered at the film’s introductory sequence—“fasten your spiritual seatbelts.”