New this week on a four feature DVD from Lifetime/Lionsgate Home Entertainment!
MANSON’S LOST GIRLS (2016)
aka MANSON’S GIRLS
Directed by Leslie Libman
Written by Stephen Kronish, Matthew Tabak
Starring Mackenzie Mauzy, Eden Brolin, Grace Victoria Cox, Greer Grammer, Christian Madsen, Isabel Shill, Garrett Coffey, Morgan Krantz, Jeff Ward, John F. Goff, Stephen Sullivan, Chad Lindberg, Christopher Redman, Don Luce, Chad T. Wood, Tess Gordon, Stella Gordon, Jesse Bean, Kari Coleman, Megan Easton, Diana Irvine, LeJon, Roman Mitichyan, Sarah Molasky, Jhemma Ziegler
Find out more about this film here
Lifetime has gathered together four of their horror films together in one four pack and while they might not be the most bone-chilling, they do offer up a variety of notable talents and made for TV thrills that is worth a look see. I’ll be covering all four over the next few weeks, starting with MANSON’S LOST GIRLS.
By now, the story of the Manson family is pretty well known as it has been retold in scores of news specials, films, and documentaries. Every time Charles Manson or one of his core followers are up for parole, there’s a new special featuring the horrific acts of this group of misguided and over-medicated hippies. Lifetime decided to get into the Manson retelling game not long ago and put out MANSON’S LOST GIRLS. Not known for their horror and gore and misfiring badly with their LIZZY BORDEN remake, one might expect Lifetime to be ill-fitted with the grit and gristle to tell us something new about this well-documented tale. One might be right.
The film focuses mainly on Linda Kasabian, one of the last recruits into Charlie’s Family. Kasabian found herself endeared to the family and their free-living lifestyle, but like most cults, after a blissful honeymoon period, Charlie (Jeff Ward) and his lot began demanding things from Kasabian and began pushing her to commit crimes and even murder. This is the point where Kasabian left the family, went to the police, and helped build the case against Manson and the family for their crimes. For the most part, Kasabian (played by Mackenzie Mauzy) plays the wide eyes and open ears of this film, showing how easy it was to be sucked into the Family and how their horrific crimes took their toll and forced her to turn to the police.
The problem is that this tale has been told over and over. Kasabian has been the central character in most of the Manson films, as she seems to be the innocent one swayed by Charlie’s charisma and I guess that’s the easiest tale to tell. I would think a more compelling story POV to use would be someone fully enmeshed in the Family like Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme, who seemed to be as into the killings as Charlie was, at least in this version. In most versions, Squeaky is the one who introduces the new women to the Family and begins upping the ante as Charles’ surrogate mother of the group. Shifting the POV of the story immediately changes things, and while all of the Manson films seem to want to look at Manson from the outside, I think a different POV would have made this film more unique. As is, it feels like I’ve seen this film way too many times for it to stand out.
Films like HELTER SKELTER, its modern remake, and Jim Van Bebber’s THE MANSON FAMILY have given us memorable performances by Steve Railsback, Jeremy Davies, and Marcelo Games as Charles Manson, each with their own subtle nuances. Unfortunately, the Manson we get in MANSON’S LOST GIRLS is hardly around and when he is, Jeff Ward plays Manson with extremely broad strokes, simply opening his eyes wide to show how charismatic he is. Ward’s Manson feels more like an insecure bully and doesn’t really give us anything other than wispy hair, stubble, and rock hard abs to convince us why he may have had so much power over the Family. Better performances come from Mackenzie Mauzy, who plays the wide-eyed Kasabian, and Grace Victoria Cox’s batshit crazy Squeaky Fromme (hence the reason I’d like to see a Squeaky POV film).
Much of MANSON’S LOST GIRLS focuses on the girl power freedom the females of the Family experienced robbing and conning the rich in order to buy drugs and keep Charlie happy. There is also a lot of emphasis on the hippie free love going on, as there are multiple scenes of declothings showing off hairy hippie bodies sliding on top of one another. Add in a never-ending compilation of every clichéd 60s song ham-fisted to signify something that’s going on on-screen and MANSON’S LOST GIRLS really does nothing but sugar coat a story that really doesn’t need to be sugar coated–or retold, for that matter.