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The Manson Family
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The Manson Family (2003)

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Plot Summary:
"The Manson family and the horror of the 1969 crime, seen through the eyes of the family."

Reviewer: Garth Thatchuk @horrorasylum
Location:Alberta, Canada
Review Date: 02 July 2005 My Rating: out of 5


When I was a child around the age of 10, I stumbled on a book that was hidden in my parent’s bookshelf. This was not a book that was meant for my eyes, and I knew it from the moment that I first saw it. The cover read in large blood written letters “Helter Skelter”.

This book had a huge effect on me. I remember bringing the book down from the shelf and opening it up for the first time, I went directly to the pictures. It was this reason alone that I felt for one of the first and only times in my life that I did not feel safe in my own home. Seeing actual photos of the people that were murdered and reading the quick captions that were underneath the photos not only brought a million questions to my young mind, but scared me so bad that I did not sleep for what seemed to be weeks. I kept having dreams that bad people were going to break into my house and kill me and my family. It was horrible to say the least. I have still not till this day been able to read the book. Even from just seeing the cover now, I get shivers up and down my spine.

With all this being said, I have been hearing about this movie for a few years now, but was a little chicken to seek it out. I very rarely get nervous to see any type of film, let alone a “horror” movie. I am one of those people that will actively seek out the most graphic of films, and love every frame of them, but I can honestly say that The Manson Family took some balls on my part. With all this being said, was there a reason that I had to prepare myself for a screening? Let’s see.

The movie was not at all what I had expected. I thought for sure that all The Manson Family was going to have to offer was some horrible acting and maybe some B grade murder reenactments. Man, was I wrong! This was quite the film.

Writer/Director Jim Van Beeb has shown that he is not just a fantastic storyteller, but also a master craftsman with what he has shot here. This movie attempts to explain just what it was like living on the ranch with Charlie Manson back in 1969. This is not your average single sided story that forces into thinking one way, The Manson Family has many layers and gives you enough room to come up with your own conclusions to some of the harder asked questions that came from this crime spree.

I was shocked at how attached I became with the entire supporting cast”, and how little this film focused on Charlie. Don’t get me wrong, Charlie is integral to the story here, but with the way that this film was shot, Charlie is mainly shown during flashbacks and explained through other people’s words.

This Manson Family visuals are put together in a very unorthodox way. The way the film was shot is like one intoxicating drug, all the movies sets, wardrobe, and for the most part even the dialog has such a sixties feel you would almost swear that you are watching actual footage from Charlie and his family. And the gore is fantastic! (I do want to thank Jim Van Beeb for not showing the Tate murder in its entirety. I think Roman Polanski has seen and heard enough about the murder of his wife and unborn child, the last thing he needed was a cheap director trying to get some headlines by sensationalizing the murder more than it already has been. Nice going Jim, a class move!)

The only thing that did not work for this movie was a ridiculous subplot that deals with a modern day T.V. reporter and a group of young Manson followers. This small portion of the movie starts and ends the film, so for people seeing this film for the first time be patient. Once we start to see the family in action you will easily forget what you had just seen.

Overall, a very satisfying experience that I found stuck with me for weeks after my first viewing. Amazing visuals coupled with some great performances make this one worth seeking out! Highly Recommended!

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