Overview: A history of the Process Church of the Final Judgment, told by it’s members and fans. Neil Edwards; 2016; Not Rated; 101 minutes.
Cult: Cults are inherently fascinating. I think, deep down, we all watch cult stories with a certain smugness. We find amusement in these narratives about everyday lives being completely upended by the arrival of some sort of ultra charming person claiming that they are God or the messiah convincing multiple folks to abandon their possessions and join the cause. We all like to think it will never happen to us, that we are so secure in our cynicism or existing beliefs that there is no chance that a Charles Manson, Jim Jones, Raynor Johnson, or David Koresh character could ever influence us to commit murder, sexual assault, or mass suicide. And, yet, when we watch these stories, we always find normal people at the beginning. It is always interesting to watch the survivors of these cults talk about how they got involved and the point where things went wrong, particularly when a lot the loudest stories, at least those for which movies are most often made, are terribly tragic. And this brings me to Sympathy for the Devil, the feel good cult story of the year.
The Process: Neil Edwards’ Sympathy for the Devil is an anomaly in the genre of cult documentaries. This is the story of a cult that never killed anyone or commit organized suicie, whose survivors came out of it pretty much fine. Started in the ’60s in London, The Process was a group of people who didn’t see themselves as flower children or squares. They found themselves, as a lot of us do, stuck in the centre. So they branched out into something new, creating their own church that worshiped a quadrangle of Christ, Jehovah, Lucifer, and Satan, with each member aligning themselves to a certain figure. Though it should be noted that the Satanists weren’t “cut a goat’s throat and bathe in the blood” Satanists, they were just out to freak out the normals. The former members of The Process talk very candidly about the fact that they were all middle class, well-to-do young people who just wanted to be weird and freak people out and the Church of the Final Judgment, with its controversial magazine, cool robes, and odd practices, offered the perfect angle to do just that.
Overall: Sympathy for the Devil offers a refreshing cult story because the hammer never falls. The former members talk about their time in The Process with a mix of embarrassment toward the idiotic things they did in their youths and pride for the crazy amount of fun. Edwards has crafted a very wry, very funny movie that delves deep into The Process by letting its real members tell the story. Those waiting for the moment they go on a killing spree will be disappointed but there’s plenty more cult stories about that for you to check out.
Featured Image: Neil Edwards