DVD Review

“The Manson Family”

By Marcus Pan

The Manson FamilyThis is, easily, one of the most brutal films I’ve ever watched. There were numerous stops while I was watching it to save other members of the family from having to deal with the graphic work of director VanBebber as portrayed here. The Manson Family, possibly one of the more truthful takes on the Charles Manson murders, was fifteen years in the making. Following Jim VanBebber’s 80’s period success with Deadbeat at Dawn and his music video direction with acts like the infamous Skinny Puppy, The Manson Family was begun in 1988 as a project called “Charlie’s Family” and with funding issues and the like was piecemealed until its release in 2003. It made it to double-DVD on April 26, 2005 in R and unrated editions. The latter was sent to me.

The Manson Family is frighteningly brutal in its depiction of Charlie’s rise from obscure druggie to leader of a near-cult “family” at the Spahn Ranch in California. It spends more time than other depictions of the family covering the earlier period of time prior to the worldwide-known Tate-LaBianca murders on August 9, 1969. The loving nature of Charlie Manson, which served to bring other people within the circle of his influence, is portrayed. The constant drug use is plainly displayed and the outward sexual conduct is clearly shown. The unrated version of The Manson Family that I have would probably garner an NC-17 if the movie industry had their way.

You’ll notice Manson’s increased paranoia and violence as his record contact bails and his fear of race war builds. He’s gone from preaching freedom and love at the onset of the movie to hatred and superiority by the time members of the family make their sadistic run to the home where the pregnant Sharon Tate and her cohorts were that evening. Throughout and during the portrayal of the pre-70s years, VanBebber also ties in mockumentaries and a vicious plot line following some modern day family wanna-bes in modern days, bringing all three pieces of stand-alone film together into a vicious climactic ending.

Cinematography and imagery hovers from surreal to sadistic, depending on how far in the film you are and what piece of the tri-run plotlines you’re viewing. The movie degenerates into evil as it progresses, the scenery and cinematography getting darker and more twisted as we move along. VanBebber’s use of the camera is excellent and his visions are extremely fierce and terrifying.

The Manson Family is a brilliant film and has all the catches common to slasher era horror. What sets it apart from all the others is one simple and impossible to overlook fact – the events of The Manson Family are not fiction. No Hannibal Lechter, Leatherface or Jason VorHees can touch Charlie Manson. The former three slashed things in fiction only – Charlie and his family did it in our world. And that adds a note of terror that far surpasses others.

Contact Information:
Dark Sky Films
Post: MPI Media Group, 16101 S 108th Ave., Orland Park, IL, 60467, USA

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