When watching a movie about a man who is as deranged as Charles Manson you would expect the performance to be unhinged and almost cartoon like. At least that’s what I have seen in other movies about the man. A lot of flicks want to focus just on the crime being committed, and nothing else. They want to label Charlie as a freak show, because it’s the easy way out. They forget that at one time, this very insane man was once a little boy.
House of Manson goes back into the past to show us the life of a man, who at times can be very seductive and influential. What scared me the most about this flick was that I could somewhat understand how his followers could be duped into what he told them. Now, that’s not to say that I endorse the killing of innocent people, but before the tragedy Charlie was just a guy hanging out with a lot of cute girls and trying to get a record deal.
When we first see Charles Manson (Ryan Kiser) he has just been arrested by the cops at the farm he has been living at with his followers. The man assigned to be his possible defendant, asks him to talk about his life and we get the usual rise to fame flashback formula that has been used before, although in this film it’s not really fair to call it fame since he gets no glory at the end. I was fascinated to know that at one point in his life Charles had a normal marriage. He got into some petty crime to help support his family and when he got sent to jail. His wife wanted nothing to do with him and took his son far away. When he meets the other girls, and starts having kids with some of them, it’s because he wants to start the family he never got to have. Susan Atkins (Devanny Pinn), Linda Kasabian (Erin Marie Hogan), Squeaky (Mel Turner), Tex Watson (Reid Warner) and Leslie Van Houten (Julie Rose) become part of that family.
At first it is all about sex, love and drugs. There are no hang ups about material possessions and it’s during these moments, where Charlie starts to talk to these people, that you sort of buy into what he is saying up to a certain point. He goes off the rails when he starts ranting about different races, yet when he says that he is free in ways most people are not it does make some sense. Yeah, maybe his mind is free because he doesn’t have to worry about bills and house payments, he has no responsibilities, but he also has no freedom at all either.
The movie shows the moment when the Manson family goes into the home of Shannon Tate (Suzi Lorraine), where she and others are brutally murdered (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s a real well known case). One scene that stood out happened during the death of Abigail Folger (Tristan Risk). While she is being stabbed by Patricia Krenwinkel(Serena Lorien). She whispers for her attacker to please stop because she is already dead. The attack doesn’t end and we get a very disturbing sequence.
The attention to detail is outstanding and despite some moments that have too much shaky camera work and sound designs of a modern horror film this one stays true to the look of something you would see in a movie made in the late 60’s and 70’s. I don’t know what type of film stock was used, but kudos to their cinematographer for getting that aspect correctly. Not only was director Brandon Slagle good with getting the look of the film down, the casting itself was dead on (no pun intended) too.
Ryan Kiser is amazing as Charles Manson. He plays him as a real person and not just some guy spouting random crazy shit. Seeing him portrayed this way, makes him a bit more scary because you can see that he was charming and manipulative. Devanny Pinn has some pretty chilling moments that make her seem more lost from reality then the leader himself. The casting of Suzi Lorriane as Sharon Tate was also good because of how much she looks like the slain actress. In fact all of the others actors and actresses look pretty similar to the real people and in some scenes I could not tell if I was looking at the movie or some documentary footage.
I’m am not intimately familiar with the actual case, so I don’t know how accurate this movie is to the real life events, but House of Manson is still a good movie that I hope everyone gets a chance to see. It’s a biopic of a very different nature because it gives you the insights into a man that you never wanted to meet. It never paints Manson out to be the hero even though he is the lead character. It would have been easier just to portray these events as the random acts of some drug taking hippies, but it’s much more terrifying when we see that these heinous acts were being done by people who, at one point, could have been our friends.
The Good: The attention to detail in terms of casting and the look of the film.
The Bad: The shaky camera work near the end and the many swoosh pans for scene changes.
The Disturbing: The deaths of Sharon Tate and her friends.