Over the past decade, Everything Is Terrible has amassed a cult following for mish-mashing together found-footage clips from old VHS tapes to create garbled, writhing audiovisual beasts. The result is chaotic, campy, surreal, disorienting, and a little hopeless—it’s a grim reflection of humanity that will likely convince you that everything really is terrible. Thankfully, there’s plenty of pitch-black humor to be dredged from those psychedelic creations.
Members of the Los Angeles-based collective are currently touring the country with a new live show and film, The Great Satan. “From the humans who collected over 15,000 Jerry Maguire VHS tapes and remade The Holy Mountain out of dog footage comes a sensory experience like no other,” its trailer boasts, “comprised of over 2,000 horror, Satanic panic, and singing Christian duck VHS tapes, remixed, re-edited, and re-contextualized.”
If you’re unfamiliar with Everything Is Terrible, the first thing you should know is that they play fast and loose with narrative. As promised, The Great Satan splices together KISS music videos, vintage porn, uncanny valley-style cartoons, god-fearing news broadcasts, Fabio close-ups, scenes from Jerry Maguire, and Christian edutainment for children—complete with raps about the good book—to tell a story about white Christian America’s relationship with Satan, their fear of death and eternal damnation, and their hypocritical, often bigoted ideology. At least, I think that’s what it’s about; I could just be projecting order onto something that is, by nature, a mess. Or perhaps I’d have a better understanding if I hadn’t been stone cold sober when I watched.
The Great Satan probably isn’t for everyone. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s for me—I could never watch it again, but did enjoy the experience of absorbing an overwhelming jumble of gory, lewd videos and attempting to puzzle together a bigger picture. Some moments even made me laugh out loud, particularly when a church full of youths fist-pumps while chanting “Virginity! Is! Cool!”
If you go to see Everything Is Terrible perform The Great Satan live at Central Cinema on February 11 and 12, be warned: Their live shows typically feature costumes and lots of yelling.