A true story of false memory, Michelle Remembers is a documentary horror film exploring the source and spread of the infamous Satanic Ritual Abuse Panic of the 1980s. Blending archive, reconstruction and oral testimony, the film uncovers the forces at play between psychiatry, horror, television talk shows, and mass hysteria.
In 1976, Michelle Smith had a terrifying dream: she saw hundreds of tiny spiders gushing from a scratch on her arm. The nightmare prompted Michelle to consult psychiatrist Dr. Lawrence Pazder. Using hypnosis, he assisted Michelle to recall apparent events from her childhood. From deep inside her mind came memories long buried: how she had suffered Satanic Ritual Abuse, witnessed murder, and the sacrifice of babies. Pazder recorded their sessions and the two co-authored a book detailing Michelle’s therapy. The book is now considered the principal catalyst for the Satanic Panic of the 80s,a mass hysteria where women and children around the world recalled false memories of the same template narrative—ultimately leading to the McMartin Preschool trial, one of the longest and most expensive trials in US history. Forty years on, Michelle Remembers charts the trail of the panic, uncovering the elusive line between fiction, fact, and the persuasive power of the media. Through archive material the film follows the spread of this mass hysteria, from television talk show to horror films. The film highlights the destructive nature of fear, the insidious power of media, and the tragic fallibility of human memory.