Satan Hates You poses as a religious allegory where two troubled outcasts eventually accept “Jesus into their hearts,” but it’s really meant as a low-budget shock comedy about addiction and personal responsibility. The punchline, which writer-director James Felix McKenney partially lands, is that the characters are terrified of entering a hell they obviously already inhabit. The need to atone to a supernatural “other” such as God (in order to divorce one from their own doing) is the target of the film’s parody. Set entirely in grungy apartments, bars, alleyways, the film is lit in a garish red that’s purposefully symbolically heavy-handed. Satan Hates You recalls Bobcat Goldthwait’s partially awful, partially accomplished Shakes the Clown in its mixture of flakiness, amateurishness, and occasionally unexpected honesty. Goldthwait’s film presented a parallel world where failed artists and addicts were the accepted middle class, and a day job with a shirt and tie might earn you a strange look. McKenney occasionally manages a similar feat: His film works on a blunt level of parable that’s intended to be knowingly terrible. The tone is meant to reflect the higher level of indifference that one achieves when giving up on themselves. Satan Hates You is permanently set in that realm of pronounced self-loathing that can torment anyone recovering from a 30-day bender of booze, drugs, and random, indifferent sex.
The leads are Marc (Don Wood) and Wendy (Christine Spencer). He’s an alcoholic who occasionally kills to ensure that his homosexuality remain closeted, and she’s a drug addict who finds herself bent over a restroom stall for more than one reason. Both are preoccupied with various (ridiculously broad) religious TV stations continually parroting God’s salvation. Both are also trailed by a pair of demons—one of whom is played by producer and cult horror maestro Larry Fessenden—who monitor and encourage their wrongdoing. Marc is an absurdly presentable, seemingly middle-class homeless man, while Wendy is an attractive girl caked in layers of unflattering, garish makeup. We follow them as they hurt themselves over and over, eventually inexplicably healing so that they can promptly die.
Quite a bit of Satan Hates You is terrible, but there are a few striking moments. Wendy undergoes an abortion that’s a disgustingly cruel parody of the pro-life movement’s most paranoid accusations. Blood splatters in the street doctor’s face as he goes to work on the young girl with what appears to be a garden hoe attached to a piece of rubber tubing. Wendy screams for it to end, and the doctor laughs as the undeniably humanoid child tumbles into a medical tube, its hand reaching as he instructs the nurse to “dispose of it.” Later on, Wendy is raped at a costume party by a man dressed as Satan, her screams ignored as her fucked-up friends fiddle with their own concerns. The rape itself is shown as a series of freeze frames on Wendy’s agonized face, any one of which could serve as a poster for a 1970s grindhouse film (this image has, in fact, been used to market this film). And there’s the instance of Marc disposing of a lover he kills. Marc ties the body up and dumps it out the hotel window into the dumpster conveniently placed below, the body, as tied at the victim’s head, resembling a flaccid penis that a lover shamefully masks. These moments blur tone to push through accepted notions of good taste, and tap authentic social-pressure points. Satan Hates You is self-conscious trash with occasional bite.