Who hasn’t heard about the serial killings of Charles Manson?
The frustrated hippie who led the cult that killed Sharon Tate during her pregnancy, has become one of the twentieth century’s most famous murderers. This, of course, has resulted in him being the subject for various films throughout several decades. Now, the master of gore and black humor, Quentin Tarantino, has stated that his next film will focus on the case. Throughout his career, the director of Reservoir Dogs has always been subject to controversy, yet this movie could be a particularly risky move because of the theme’s sensitivity and the director’s lack of tact in portraying violence. Nonetheless, it could also bring an interesting twist to the story, bringing a fresh perspective and insight to the table to help us understand the societal factors that led to such a disastrous phenomenon. In the meantime, you can keep up with the subject by watching the movies that have shaped our understanding of this murderer, how he became so powerful, and the generalized distortion that led to such a catastrophic outcome.
Helter Skelter (1976), Tom Gries
This film is based on the best-selling true crime book of all time, the account of Vincent Bugliosi, the trial prosecutor for Manson. Almost as reliable as a documentary, it follows Bugliosi and Curt Gendry’s retelling of the case. The director paid strong attention to detail and tried to make the film as truthful as it could possibly be by reenacting some of its sequences at the crime scenes themselves and presenting real testimonies from the trial. A decent, in-depth introduction to the subject.
House of Manson (2014), Brandon Slagle
One of the latest versions on how Manson’s story has been taken to film, this low-budget take on the story of the family is not amazing in either its script nor its acting. However Ryan Kiser’s on-point interpretation of Charles Manson gives a lot of insight on the complex psychological illnesses and delusions that turned him into a monstrous cult leader. Also, it explores how his personal charm paved the way for people to be attracted to his cult.
Manson Family Vacation (2015), J. Davis
Is there a way to tell a story related to the Charles Manson family without making it gruesome? This film from 2015 explains the hippie mentality in retrospective, telling the story of how a man has to deal with his brother’s obsession with Manson. A comedic twist on the murders, it captures the obsession that cases like Manson’s can still provoke on our society.
Leslie, My Name Is Evil (2009), Reginald Harkema
Focusing on the trial of Leslie Van Houten, one of Manson’s closest followers, it tells the story of how a young juror falls for her and becomes unable to tell the difference between her harmonious appearance of a flower child and her horrid acts. This is a gory portrayal of the craze that happened with the murders and how much influence a “charismatic” man can have on the life of a kindred spirit.
Live Freaky, Die Freaky (2006), John Roecker
Produced by the punk guitarist Tim Armstrong from Rancid, this movie gives a stop-motion portrayal of the Manson murders in a dark musical starring the members of bands such as Green Day, Blink-182, and Good Charlotte. This gritty and pungent film captures the whole madness of Manson and his followers, emphasizing the irony of how a countercultural movement that praised peace and love was deformed into a gruesome warmongering cult out of plain frustration.
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