In "Heart of Darkness," Joseph Conrad's character Kurtz's famous dying words are "The horror! The horror!" Kurtz has looked into the face of evil, and the experience was so explosive that it destroyed him.
Conrad's characterization of evil as a mysterious, implacable, overwhelming, consciously malevolent "heart of darkness" is one that most of us resonate with. But as philosopher Hannah Arendt pointed out in the early 1960s when covering the trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann, evil can also be "banal." Part of what she meant is the process that occurs when people fail to think or judge rationally, and so just accept as "normal" certain kinds of behavior that critical reflection would spot as wicked. But in using the word "banal," Arendt also wanted to de-melodramatize evil. Evil actions are more often sordid and grimy, based on ignorance and stereotypes, than diabolically clever.
"Blood in the Face" (which takes its title from the racist myth that only Aryans have moral sensibilities and are capable of blushing) is a perfect example of the banality of evil in both senses. Filmed at a Michigan gathering of Nazis, KKKers, and Christian Identity loyalists, the film exposes the sheer stupidity, paranoia, and incoherence of the True Believers.
Perhaps nowhere is the pathetic nature of it all better captured than in the description of George Lincoln Rockwell's tawdry murder at a laundromat. But there are lots of other examples: the long-haired yahoos in faux SS uniforms proudly announcing that they're ready for race war; the nerdy teenager who insists he wouldn't be a racist or a Christian if it weren't for the "lovable" teachings of Rockwell; the wedding between two KKK-robed lovers at a cross-burning; an old guy in a bola tie who gets so furious in denouncing Ronald Reagan as a Jew-lover that he looks positively apoplectic; the stern-faced warnings of a coming Armageddon, which will break the US up into racial enclaves; the bizarre Christian Identity claim that Anglo-Saxons are really the chosen people referred to in the Old Testament, and that Jews are imposters; and the dimwitted would-be television host who clumsily interviews fellow-racists and proudly announces that "we want to create a show that will make white people look intelligent." Duh.
The ridiculousness of these and other beliefs make for some genuinely hilarious interviews in the film. But this oughtn't to minimize the fact that neo-Nazis, for all their banality, both advocate and occasionally practice violence. Viewers are reminded of this at the film's end--just another lesson that evil in the world needn't be plotted by Hollywoodish mastermind villains to be horribly effective.