Attendees from all over the world are getting ready to kick off the ten-day entertainment event known as SXSW. From film to television, podcasts, and music, every creative outlet is represented at the festival in Austin, Texas, which serves as a platform for filmmakers to debut their projects and bands to take the center stage of showcases. With films like the Sydney Sweeney-led Americana and immersive experiences like the Yellowjackets pop-up taking over the festival, television and cinema fans will have their schedules packed as they make their way around to various premieres. While there are so many options out there, true crime fans won’t want to miss the debut of Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams’ documentary feature, Satan Wants You, which will tell the story of what’s come to be known as the “Satanic Panic.” In an official teaser, audiences can begin to discover how one allegation became the obsession of a nation.
For anyone who believes the hysteria that caught like wildfire around the time of the Salem Witch Trials or even the Red Scare could never happen again, Satan Wants You is here to remind you that not only did it happen in the 1980s and 1990s but that there are still similar instances happening today. The teaser introduces audiences to the famous book that started it all: Michelle Remembers. Co-penned by psychiatrist Larry Pazder and his titular patient Michelle Smith, the book recounted the allegations on Smith’s behalf in which she recounted memories of being abducted by Satanists at a young age and, among other things, tortured and sexually assaulted.
The book would kick off the Satanic Panic and, as we see in the trailer, lead to similar claims made by a wave of other alleged victims. From The Oprah Winfrey Show to Geraldo, people were stepping forward in droves to tell their stories after having their memories refreshed thanks to Michelle Remembers. Depicting the widespread terror of the time through interviews, viewers will come to understand how one woman’s allegations led to the wrongful convictions of many innocent lives.
It’s worth noting that not only were the claims in Michelle Remembers debunked but that Pazder and Smith would go on to engage in a romantic relationship – further drawing in the public’s side-eye. Not only will Satan Wants You offer up in-session tapes between the doctor and patient, but it will also be the very first time that Smith’s sister, Pazder’s ex-wife, and Pazder’s daughter will sit down to have their stories told. Connecting the dots to similar present-day cults, Horlor and Adams will also use their documentary as a tool to draw comparisons to conspiracies like QAnon and Pizzagate.
Celebrating its premiere this Saturday at the SXSW Film Festival, Satan Wants You will screen in the festival’s Documentary Spotlight section. Check out the trailer below.