THE LAST OF THE MANSON GIRLS (2018)
Directed by Lonnie Martin
Written by Lonnie Martin, based on the works of Paul Krassner
Starring Jen Bevan, Elliott Kashner, Cindy Marie Martin, Clayton Stocker Myers, Robin Reck, Christopher Robin, Sarah Taurchini
Find out more about this film here
There’s been a lot of hubbub about Manson lately. Most likely, due to Taratino’s recent foray into the mythos. Some deal with various aspects of the famous murders surrounding the cult leader. Others use the historical facts as jumping on points for fantastical reimaginings of the past. THE LAST OF THE MANSON GIRLS does a little of both, making it one of the more unique films in the ever-growing Manson subgenre.
Set during the Nixon era, THE LAST OF THE MANSON GIRLS focuses on Paul (Elliott Kashner), a satirical writer and stand up comic who is in search of eternal truths and the answers to age-old conspiracies. After deciphering a prison-letter written by Charles Manson, Paul finds himself at the residence of Squeaky Fromme (Jen Bevan), Sandra Goode (Cindy Marie Martin), and Brenda McCann (Sarah Taurchini). Not knowing if these disciples of Manson are going to love him, drug him, mug him, or just murder him to death, Paul throws caution to the wind and drops acid with the last Manson girls.
While the subject matter might be a bit morose and dark, the film itself is anything but. THE LAST OF THE MANSON GIRLS is more of a story about enlightenment and self-discovery than anything else. It’s a film about searching for the truth, but in a cynical manner instead of an honest way and the vast difference between the two quests. In this day and age, truth is in the eye of the reporter and universal truths are often divvied up into sparring corners, but this film seems to want to offer up an alternative message. Paul already has his mind set when he is on his way to meet Squeaky Fromme and the carved X in her forehead he sees when he arrives at her apartment only strengthens his pre-judgement. But the more he spends with these people, he is enlightened. It’s basically the opposite message we get in this current culture where opposing beliefs are met with fingers in the ears and blocks on social media. Many could learn from this low budget semi-horror/comedy/drama, that is, if they would allow themselves to.
THE LAST OF THE MANSON GIRLS is low fi cinema, but the acting is top tier all around. Elliott Kashner has enough Paul Rudd likability to accept his biased leap into this world of cults and madness and there’s an instant spark of freshness from Jen Bevan’s Squeaky Fromme. Hell, you even get some words of wisdom from Lenny Bruce himself (via actor Clayton Stocker Myers) and some wonderful character moments from Cindy Marie Martin, Sarah Taurchini, and Christopher Robin throughout. Their charm is also highlighted by a script by filmmaker Lonnie Martin (drawn from a story by the real Paul Krassner) that is sincere and downright poignant at times. I also have to note that there is some trippy animation throughout that adds a lot of levity to the mix. While I feel the film could have been edited a bit sharper to tighten some of the scenes and make the whole film move at a boppier pace, I found the whole experience to be an unexpectedly refreshing trip.
Does the film romanticize the Manson gals and their acts? Maybe a little. But it is never forgotten through the course of this film that these girls have done horrible things. Still, this is a film about getting past solidified beliefs and realizing that there’s a multi-faceted world out there filled with multi-faceted people. If one is looking for enlightened views, this film has it. THE LAST OF THE MANSON GIRLS is not for the big budget crowd. If you’re looking for big stars and bigger action, you’re not going to find it here. What you’re going to find is a script filled with fun story moments, wise anecdotes, and heartwarming beats—the last thing I would expect to find in a film entitled THE LAST OF THE MANSON GIRLS.