Thursday, January 14, 2016

MOVIE WEEKEND: MANSON FAMILY VACATION

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

When you see the title of today's movie and look at the cover of the DVD, you'll probably think oh, hell no. I ask you to give it a chance because it's not what it appears to be. The movie is Manson Family Vacation (2015, Not Rated, Available on Netflix Streaming and DVD).

I saw this movie on a list of "must see" films for 2015--the same way I found The Wolfpack on a list of must-see documentaries for the year.

You must know upfront that this is not a Helter Skelter movie with re-enactments of the killings committed by members of "The Manson Family." The movie has basic details about the murders, and the locations at which they took place. Only one actual place involved--the restaurant where Sharon Tate and her friends ate dinner the night they were killed--is used. The soundtrack includes some of Manson's music.

The true theme of this movie is the need for acceptance and to have a family, and the lengths to which some people will go to achieve that need.


Manson Family Vacation was funded by a Kickstarter campaign. It's pretty well made for a low budget film. I like the acting by the main characters, and the realizations they reach.

Nick (Jay Duplass) is a lawyer with a wife and son. They appear to have a pretty comfortable, conventional lifestyle in Los Angeles. Nick's father died recently, and his brother, Conrad (Linas Phillips), didn't come to the funeral. Now he arrives to visit Nick and his family, but Conrad has a hidden agenda.

He wants to visit the locations of the murders committed by the Manson Family, and see the ranch where they lived. Conrad was adopted by his parents, who thought they could not have children. Then his parents had Nick, and Nick became everything to their parents, especially their dad. Conrad is considered kind of a strange guy, who is pretty much cast aside by Nick.

Nick gives in to Conrad's request to visit the locations. Conrad seems unusually interested in Manson, and wears a Manson t-shirt. Then Nick learns that Conrad is in touch with Manson and remnants of his followers.

Manson Family Vacation earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Pretty High Approval Once You Get Past the Strangeness of the Idea. It's not for kids, unless you decide to watch it with older teens. I wasn't all that shocked to learn that tours exist to take people to the Manson sites, and Manson himself receives thousands of letters every year--many from admirers.

Now I want to toss in spoilers, so if you don't want to read the spoilers but you want to get to the comments, then press on the "down" arrow with your eyes closed. You'll get to the bottom of the page in a few seconds. You'll open your eyes, and you'll go back up to the comments but not as far as the spoilers. If you want to read the spoilers, then scroll down a bit.
































SPOILERS: Conrad is one of Manson's biological children. His adoptive family never knew this pretty big piece of information. When Conrad goes to the prison to visit Manson, Nick realizes that he and his father mistreated Conrad. He tells Conrad that he loves him, but Conrad continues toward the prison.

I don't have a creepy interest in Charles Manson. I'm not so sure he's really human--or at least he's not all there mentally. Maybe he's not there at all mentally. What I do find interesting is this concept: What if you found out you are the child of a serial killer or some other infamous person?

I'm not sure how many children Manson fathered, but supposedly he impregnated a number of the young women in his family. When family members were arrested, children were removed from the ranch.

When Aileen Wuornos was a young teenager, she gave birth to a baby who was given up for adoption. I watched some news show once that included a story about a woman whose father was a serial killer.

In 1983, Diane Downs wanted to get rid of her three children. She shot them, grazed herself with a bullet, and went to a hospital to claim they had been carjacked and shot. One child died. The other two survived. When one of the children regained the ability to speak, she testified against her mother.

In the meantime, Diane Downs got pregnant and gave birth to another girl, who was seized by the state and given up for adoption. I also saw her on TV. She learned who her biological mother was and got in touch with her. She said that after a while, Diane Downs' letters became so upsetting that she ceased communicating with her.

I've seen some documentaries about the elderly people who at one time were the children of Hitler's highest henchmen. The BTK Killer had kids. The Green River Killer had a son.

Please don't think I have an obsession with creepy people and serial killers. I do think it must be difficult to live with the knowledge that you have a parent who committed horrible acts. Far more important to me is what I consider to be the major theme of this movie: the need to belong.














If you decide to watch this movie, I will love to hear what you think of it. If you want nothing to do with it, then I understand completely.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

16 comments:

  1. Every time I see a picture of Sharon Tate, I always have the exact same thought. "She's so beautiful." My mom had a copy of Helter Skelter and even though I never read it, she taught me all about it.

    I'm already the child of a horrible person and one of my biggest fears is that my future children will take after him instead of me.

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    1. Sharon Tate was startlingly beautiful. Dr. Robert Sapolsky, the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant and a professor at Stanford who specializes in neurology, has written a number of books, one of which is a collection of essays called Monkeyluv. He stresses that people are not totally created by nature nor by nurture. It's a combination of the two. When you decide to have children, they will have you and their father to nurture them, and they will have your nature and their father's. If you have concerns that your children have inherited some kind of mental illness from your father, then you will deal with it. Charles Manson definitely had at least three sons. One of them committed suicide, but not until he was well into adulthood. No one has ever reported that a child known to be fathered by Charles Manson has inherited his lack of human feeling. One of his sons did a TV interview years ago. He said his grandparents raised him in the Midwest and gave him a great childhood. He seemed to be a pleasant guy. He had a son. The son of the man who committed suicide has come forward. He's a cage wrestler, but also seems to be okay. We all have bad people in our backgrounds. It doesn't mean they have to affect us and our children.

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  2. Janie, truly an interesting subject. The study of alcoholism and its appearance in subsequent generations is also interesting. Definitely kind of creepy to think about being a child of such a person, and what on earth makes people intrigued by Manson...beyond me. In all stories of cults, there are indications of this need to belong and therefore influenced by a charismatic leader. Waco, Jim Jones, and others for example. Have a good weekend, my friend.

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    1. Some families have a propensity toward addiction. Almost all people have a need to belong.

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  3. Sounds like a very strange movie. Not one I would ever rent, but I see it is on streaming. If I peek at it I will let you know. :)

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    1. I was surprised by how good it was--in an unusual and unique way.

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  4. This sounds like a disturbing film and hits on a number of issues that these poor kids have to deal with-they are the children of horrible psychopathic people. I think I would have mixed feelings and I could see, in my youth, try to grapple with it. Interesting film

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    1. I didn't feel all that disturbed by the film. To me, it's a study of a family. It's the background--the fact that we have serial killers and other hideous people in the world--that disturbs me.

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  5. I will watch this. I could only watch "The Wolfpack" for a half hour. It was SO slow!!

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    1. I think it's appropriate for The Wolfpack to be slow because these young men emerged slowly. Everything is strange and fascinating for them.

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  6. I just finished watching it--it was fascinating!! Was it true?

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    1. It is not true in the sense that the character of Conrad could be Manson's son. The Internet Movie Database points out that the dates make it an impossibility. However, it is true that Charles Manson and other infamous people have children. Manson now has grandchildren, too. It's also true in the sense that families often reject at least one member, who is left to find another family.

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  7. I WILL watch this because I like movies with an original twist or angle. This certainly fills the bill. Also, I hate to invest time in a Netflix movie that is a dud.

    I owe ya.

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    1. You can pay me back by sending the boy who sees me as his true mom to have some fun with me in Florida.

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  8. I might have to check this out. I don't have Netflix, maybe I'll see if it is on Amazon. Thanks, Janie!

    Love,
    Jessica

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    1. I don't know if it's on Amazon. It usually says on IMDb if it's on Amazon, but I didn't see anything.

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