Wednesday, June 28, 2023

House of Manson Movie Review

      House of Manson is one of those films that is unfortunately going to fall into the 'I watched it so you don't have to' category. As usual, I'll take a look at the movie from two angles- how well it works as a movie, and whether or not it gets the facts right. House of Manson misses the mark somewhat in both respects. 

    The 2014 film has mostly unknown actors, and definitely has a low budget feel to it. The film starts out with the raid on the ranch (with a soundtrack that sounds more late 1970s classic rock than late '60s), then goes to Sadie confessing in an interrogation room. From there we go to Manson speaking to an attorney and talking about his past. Cut to 1930-40s West Virginia for a montage of scenes- Charlie witnessing his mom having sex, his problems at school, his first marriage, his first experiences with the justice system. these scenes go by too quickly. I was hoping that we would be given to see a bit more of Manson's past. 

    Next we are carried along as Manson starts to assemble his Family. we see short segments of him meeting Mary Brunner, Squeaky, Katie, Sadie, etc.. typical for a Manson movie, most of the girls are too modern looking, or just don't look right for the part. Mary and Katie look far too attractive compared to their real life counterparts, while Sadie looks too modern (the actress bears a resemblance to Minka Kelley from Friday Night Lights). 

    Scenes of Manson meeting Terry Melcher, cutting a demo for him, life at the ranch, Melcher rejecting Manson, an LSD infused mock crucifixion scene complete with the participants spreading blood on themselves, and talk of Helter Skelter play out rapidly. 

     In one scene, Manson's lawyer is a fit, well groomed, clean cut man that is revealed to be Ronald Hughes for some reason. He demands to know how Manson met Sharon Tate, and in other scenes, he grills Manson as if he were a detective, not Charlie's lawyer. 

    The filmmakers spend a little time on the murder of Gary Hinman, but they manage to get the facts wrong. At one point, Sadie tells, him that her father drank himself to death. It is indicated that Hinman was being beaten and tortured for several days, and only then Charlie shows up, takes a sword off of the wall, and slices Hinman's face. Almost immediately after he is murdered. No sewing up his ear, no prayer beads. 

    The Tate killings follow, and despite the inaccuracies, this scene contains what is likely the only standout scene. The killers meet Steven Parent's car while heading up the driveway, and Tex immediately shoots him dead. We get to see Sadie's encounter with Abigail Folger, and Tex's 'I'm the Devil' line. Some of the major inaccuracies here are the appearance of two guns, one wielded by Sadie, the other by Tex. Frykowski is beaten by Tex on the couch. Abigail is chased down and killed by Katie, with no help from Tex at all. Frykowski is also not shot at all. 

    Abigail Folger's death is the most harrowing and well done scene of the movie. The actress that plays Katie is in an absolute frenzy during this scene, and Abigail's plea to stop because she is already dead is pretty chilling. Kudos to both actresses for this scene. 

    The LaBiancas the next night is a shorter scene. Charlie exits the house and tells Leslie and Katie to go inside. He and Linda and an actor who is much to old to be Clem then drive off. The murders move rapidly, with Katie again in an absolute frenzy. the scene is so chaotic it is hard to keep up. Eventually Tex hands Leslie what looks like a knife that Rambo would've carried and has her stab Rosemary (it appears that Rosemary is still alive at this point).

  The final big scene is the raid on the ranch, to the strains of Amazing Grace(!). Some of the law enforcement extras here looks really out of place for the time period. Some look like they are from the 21st century, while other look like they would be at home in the Beastie Boys 'Sabotage' video from the eighties, with sunglasses and big bushy mustaches and polyester pants. Afterwards, we get to see Ronald Hughes (court appointed mind you) refuse to represent Manson because Charlie had the murders committed because 'you're not a rock star.' I guess that is a good thing, since he was Leslie's lawyer anyway. 

    Overall, I would say this movie is for anyone that absolutely has to see every available movie about TLB. The inaccuracies will drive some of us nuts. If you can overlook those, the low budget acting might not hold much appeal. Even as far as low budget Manson movies go, this one doesn't stand up to Manson, My Name is Evil or The Last of the Manson Girls. Both of those films had that something extra that is lacking in this film. The actresses that played Katie and Abigail do a great job, but the scenes are relatively short, and unable to rescue the film. Maybeif they would have cleaned up some of the inaccuracies, and possibly delved into Manson's past more, it might have been enough to bring it up a notch or two. I would say this one is for Manson completists only.