HomeNewsOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood: Long live Manson film & TV

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Long live Manson film & TV

America’s most infamous criminal, Charles Manson, died back in 2017. But he’ll live on in film and TV, from ‘Helter Skelter’ to ‘Mindhunter’.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Long live Manson film & TV

America’s most infamous criminal, Charles Manson, died back in 2017. The cult leader and convicted murderer has been a figure on the edge of American horror and serial killer stories since the 1960s. Quite a few films have focused on the Manson Family: some educational in nature, others offering a more exploitative look at the so-called family, taking macabre insanity to a whole new dimension.

Filmmakers continue to be fascinated with the madness that Manson represented; Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood even uses the Manson murders as background to a 1969 story about Hollywood.

Here’s FD’s short list of some great movies and TV about Manson.

Helter Skelter (1976)

An award-winning TV movie based on the 1974 book by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, this film follows Manson’s race-war theory inspired by the Beatles’ song Helter Skelter along with the murders that Manson committed, along with his trial. Helter Skelter is a disturbing picture that was released in the afterglow of the Manson murders as the full horror unfurled, a real artefact of its time.

Manson (1973)

This documentary featuring interviews with Manson Family members is blood-curdling stuff. It takes you into the story of the Manson Family through the eyes of the perpetrators and cult followers, a strong attempt at trying to piece the puzzle together.

Inside the Manson Gang (2007)

Another documentary that explores the Manson murders, this time with all-new footage. A much more disturbing and fresh take that, decades apart, still gets a good glimpse at the raw horror Manson represents.

Life After Manson (2014)

This documentary focuses on Patricia Krenwinkel, who was involved in the Manson murders in 1969. It’s a character study about someone reckoning with uncomfortable past life decisions – a unique film.

Aquarius (2015)

David Duchovny (Californication) stars in this LAPD police drama that takes a simple cop into the thrall of Charles Manson. This TV drama flew straight under the radar, but it uses the past to predict a present that becomes rife with fear, horror, and collapse in a chillingly prescient manner.

Mindhunter (2017)

Manson only gets a brief mention in this stellar series from David Fincher (Zodiac), but it’s nonetheless incredibly revealing and bone-chilling at points. The show follows the birth of serial killer psychology and a whole new way of classifying criminals. Mindhunter provides a real lens into the raw horror, a look into just how the madness operates.

American Horror Story: Cult (2017)

The seventh season of FX’s horror anthology series follows a politically charged horror story. There’s even a politician who gets possessed by Charles Manson. American Horror Story: Cult is quite a tonal rollercoaster of ridiculous horror kitsch, a real delight of a show constantly reinventing itself.

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Nathan Hardisty is a screenwriting student, 'Blade Runner' obsessive, and all-round consumer of everything even vaguely not-mainstream. He likes to pretend he's not a hipster. When he's not writing about himself in the third person, he's walking his dog or writing a story that goes nowhere.

nathanh@filmdaily.co