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,