THE MANSON FAMILY (2013)
Written and directed by Jim VanBebber
THE MANSON FAMILY is a mockumentary depicting the horrifying events that took place the Summer of 1969 in California. Set in the 1990’s, a fictional television presenter reviews his footage on a Charles Manson family special he’s made for his crime show, with interviews with the Manson family members in recent years, now older and trapped behind bars for life for their heinous crimes. The members, played by actors, recollect their version of events which is reconstructed on screen by the film’s actors, as if we were seeing the events for real, first-hand. Intertwined with this story of the Manson family are a group of young worshippers themselves, who’s brief storyline culminates at the film’s natural ending.
I’m not that much of an expert on the murders committed by the Manson Family but I would say that Jim VanBebber’s film is a fantastic introduction to what actually happened, with the cast doing an outstanding job as the terrifying youngsters who followed Charles Manson as though we was the messiah – with many believing that he was Jesus himself. VanBebber focuses on the beginning, when people were joining his free-love group and spending the summer playing music, taking drugs and engaging in as much sex as they could, with anyone they desired. Manson’s preaching of being free and his anti-establishment values appeared liberating and his commune at the Spahn Ranch became a safe-haven for them all to live this free life. However, with Manson’s concerns of Helter Skelter – a race war between blacks and whites – his intentions turned more sinister, and after breaking into rich citizens houses, something he called ‘creepy-crawling’, he turned it up a notch.
The colours, costumes, set and visuals from VanBebber’s film are astounding. It genuinely looks to be of the era and the members give off a deranged vibe that will crawl under your skin. Apparently, VanWebber employed the talent of theatre students to star in his film and despite their lack of professional experience, each are superb at playing the various members of the family throughout different stages of their lives. It’s scarily realistic to watch, with sex, nudity and death, such a huge part of what the family were about, visible on screen in all their unadulterated ‘glory’. The merciless and emotionless actions seep through into your subconcious and you can’t help but feel concerned as the ‘family’ speak, convinced of the beauty of death and how the murders would set Helter Skelter into motion, not to mention help exonerate Family member Bobby from incarceration.
THE MANSON FAMILY is a disturbing trip into the past crimes and the ‘crime special’, which is how director VanBebber presents the story, works marvellously well. The only thing I disliked about the film was the minor side story of a how a group of kids are influenced by Manson decades later, showing how one person’s ‘preaching’ can have an effect on people and how easily people look to follow someone and perceive their words as gospel.
For the first time ever, this controversial piece is being released by Severin Films on Blu-Ray and re-released on DVD, uncut and packed with new extras including an interview with Charles Manson himself, deleted scenes, exclusive new interview with composer (and ex-Pantera frontman) Phil Anselmo, making-of documentary, director commentary and more.
If you have the faintest bit of interest into what happened in the case of Charles Manson and the Manson Family murders, then you will no doubt enjoy THE MANSON FAMILY. Its indie charm works admirably to create a convicing reconstruction that will have you as shocked and stunned as the day you discovered the terrible crimes.