Genre: Drama / Horror
Director: Jim Van Bebber
Starring: Marcelo Games, Marc Pitman, Leslie Orr, Maureen Allisse, Amy Yates
You’ve seen the story through the eyes of the law… Now see it through the eyes of The Manson Family.
The Manson Family is a group of left-behind youngsters who has created an own life out on a ranch where they put loyalty and love for each other above all and could easily have been mistaken for hippies, a term they dislike and want nothing to do with. They spend their days by making love to each other, either one on one or in groups and by doing a lot of psychedelic drugs and listening to music. When Manson gets rejected by a music producer, he starts to insert darker thoughts into the group and they end up going on a murder spree that would eventually lock up their main characters for life.
25 years later a reporter for a real crime TV show is putting together a documentary about the case, this time focusing more on the other people involved instead of just Charles Manson who had become “America’s boogeyman” by that time. While they go through a lot of clips and tapes of the family some new industrial goth kids that are Manson fanatics take offends and plans to take revenge.
The Manson Family took Jim Van Bebber 15 years to finish, it’s sort of the Chinese Democracy (Guns N Roses album) of the horror genre, but it’s well worth waiting for. It’s a true labor of love and a great psychedelic movie. It’s grim, dirty and nasty and is out to tell the story without caring about entertainment or mainstream values. The visuals that Van Bebber achieved here is remarkable and fantastic, it really gives you the 70’s type of feeling that a lot of other movies have failed to accomplish. He does go overboard in some scenes with visual effects though and perhaps could have benefitted from having people around that could recommend him to play some scenes more “normal” instead. Then again, the movie feels like being on LSD and I guess that does make you go overboard at times. All in all he did a remarkable job with this and I hope he is proud of his movie.
The scenes that don’t work well in my eyes are the modern part with the industrial goth kids. I understand what Van Bebber was trying to do, but it doesn’t quite work for me. The murder scene at the Tate/Polanski house is also not working for me either even though it’s filled with blood and gore. I like that he didn’t use the victims fame in this movie, since that wasn’t really an important aspect for the murderers either.
I applaud the idea of focusing the movie on the rest of the family instead of just making Charles Manson into an evil leader of innocent kids. It seems more realistic and makes the movie work even better. Manson here is portrayed more as a father figure and sort of a leader simply because he is a little older and also plays music and has “far out” ideas. A lot of scenes and dialogue are taken directly from the 1973 documentary “Manson” and they are delivered very greatly by a bunch of actors with little experience.
Marcelo Games got the part of Charlie Manson. He is ok, but nothing memorable. Marc Pitman who played Tex Watson however was great and the same can be said about Maureen Allisse as Sadie Atkins.
Considering the odds against this movie, it’s amazing that it is so well done and coherent. The Manson Family is great and it’s perhaps the best movie that focuses on the family instead of the trial. It’s a great movie to pair up with Helter Skelter (1974) and I recommend it to both fans of the Manson case and also fans of exploitation flicks. It’s basically everything that the 2004 Helter Skelter movie wished it could be and more.