As a child of the 80s, I lived through the Satanic Panic. I remember a ton of people talking about like random Satanists trying to get on the police force or some such shit. I never had a specific incident like some other towns, but I always felt this was one of the contributions to the fear of the strange. Why in the south they require you to be normal.
It’s always been a topic I have been fascinated with. For example, I love the paradise lost series, and I really hope that the series isn’t going to be lost to the sands of time. Cause its really great.
So when I saw this trailer, I was stoked.
There wasn’t a great documentary about the entirety of the Satanic Panic, so I was really hope this would be it.
And it’s not. We still don’t have that kind of documentary.
What this film is, is like an hour and 10 min about a book called Michelle Remembers, which is supposed to be a memoir of this woman named Michelle who believes she was given to a satanic cult for months when she was a little kid and they fucked with her and shit.
And for this, the film is…..ok at that… I think it spends a long time almost giving credence to the events that led up to the publishing of the book. I understand why, its trying to build up the world so you can see how this could happen before picking it apart.
The filmmakers have a deft hand it. It never gets boring, moves at a clip. They got access to an incredible amount of shit including the tapes of the “totally not bullshit” therapy sessions with her therapist/lover that was the cowriter of the book. They footage from the time they have strong. The interviews they have around with family members and people who were involved at the time (the therapist is dead and Michelle herself declined to participate [no shit]) are interesting.
But, I think where the film fails is how it comes together. It sort of lets the fall out of the respective families carry the fact that Michelle’s story is bullshit. That they each divorced their spouses to marry each other. That the techniques are bullshit. The most damning evidence they save for the end, which I wont spoil, but like. They could have done more.
The film has two big flaws for me. One, it never directly attacks Michelle’s story. It sort of lets the family members tell their side of events. I was waiting for some kind of physical evidence. A real kind of hard destruction of Michelle’s timeline (like we have in the Paradise Lost films), but we never get that.
The other big flaw is the 20 min of the film that isn’t about Michelle Remembers. The filmmakers do a half ass attempt to give this book full credit for starting satanic panic, lightly touch on the fallout, and attempt to connect it to Q-Anon insanity extremely briefly.
There is most definitely another documentary to be made that actually does the work here. I have no doubt the Michelle Remembers book has its role to play in the thing, but the filmmakers do a terrible job contextualizing the thing in the broader phenomenon. For example, do we have any footage from any of the other parts of satanic panic mentioning Michelle Remembers? I think that would go a long way in really giving broader context for the book’s impact on the panic.
Oh, and it also ends with one of those documentary meta endings like they did for don’t fuck with cats that I just fucking hate. Documentarians, stop this shit. I mean fucking stop it. It doesn’t help your cause, it just cheapens the whole fucking thing.
Overall, what we are left with is something mediocre. There have been really good documentaries recently about shit from the 90s and 80s that randomly trend on twitter. This one is not bad, its just not great.
2.5/4 – The definition of the Ebert middle of the road scale. The film had the potential to be so much better. They don’t mention any of the murder trials (like Paradise Lost), D&D, other religions outside of Canada, or even the fucking PMRC. Come on. You have so much to work with. Or just make it a Michelle Remembers doc and really hammer home that she made the whole thing up, and focus more on whether or not anyone had any remorse for the shit storm they were involved in. Fuck sake. Do better documentarians.
I’ll yield the remainder of my time to Frank Zappa.