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Exclusive: Director Susanna Lo Gives Us The Skinny on the Upcoming Film Manson Girls

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Exclusive: Director Susanna Lo Gives Us The Skinny on the Upcoming Film Manson GirlsAlthough the actual crimes happened nearly 45 years ago, the Charles Manson murders continue to intrigue people to this day. Understanding that fact, filmmaker Susanna Lo is bringing us a film that looks at the insanity from a new angle. Prepare yourself for Manson Girls.

Based on the unimaginable events leading up to the 1969 murders performed by the Manson Family, Lo’s Manson Girls tells a unique story from the perspective of the girls. “This is not Charles Manson’s story. This is not Vincent Bugliosi’s (Manson’s prosecuting attorney who wrote Helter Skelter) story. This is the girls’ story, and it predominately takes place in their earlier years from their high school days through when they start meeting each other and their life on Spahn Ranch, and it actually ends a minute before the actual Tate/LaBianca murders,” Manson Girls writer/director Susanna Lo said. “I felt like the murders had been represented enough, and for me the story was how did so many girls get seduced by this one man? Not just to do drugs or have crazy, wild sex but to actually murder people and commit multiple crimes. That’s really the perspective I took on it after I found out, a few years ago, that I was living across the street from the LaBianca house.”

Unsure why so many tourists were curious about her neighbor’s house, Lo investigated. “There were a lot of tourists showing up from around the world, and I couldn’t figure out why,” Lo said. “It was that Hollywood famous dead people tour. I finally couldn’t help it and had to do some research on all the girls. That started to pique my interest, and then I found out that Sandra Good (one of the real Manson Girls) had the exact same birthday as me. And I just had to keep researching.”

Lo spoke on why, nearly 45 years later, the Manson murders are still such an intriguing case. “I think it was the first time it was such a horrific crime,” Lo said. “Even in 1969 with Vietnam going on, Vietnam was happening in another country. Vietnam was somewhere else. This was right in our backyards. These were girls everybody grew up with. And I think the last element was the amount of fame that surrounded not only the people that were murdered but the people they were hanging out with. In my telling of the story, Terry Melcher and Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys are definitely represented and how Charles Manson and the girls were hanging out with them and how Terry was going to produces an album for Manson. And, of course, the murder happening to Sharon Tate. And you just don’t hear about women, and these were just young girls, committing such horrific crimes. They were just brutal. This is not poisoning somebody. These were multiple, multiple stab sounds. It was just so shocking at the time that I think America went from innocence to no longer a safe place. People started locking their doors after the summer of ’69.”

Lo managed to make some pretty intense connections between the story she had written and some of the people who were working on Manson Girls. “I talk to John McFee and Guy Allison of The Doobie Brothers regularly,” Lo said. “Guy is the musical composer of the soundtrack for the film, and Guy and John are the producers of the soundtrack. When John read my script, he was just mortified because there was actually a party scene where he was actually there, hanging out with Susan Atkins, and he realized he had not talked about this since it happened. He was so shocked that someone he considered a casual friend that he partied with regularly did what she ended up doing. And Guy, who’s slightly younger, was 10 years old and living in the neighborhood of the LaBianca murders and said, ‘We started locking our doors after the murders were reported.’ It was shocking to have everything validated by two people who were around the scene at that time.”

Fans of Bill Moseley, who portrays Charles Manson in the film, may be curious as to what inspired Lo to cast the actor in the role of the leader of the family. “When I was casting this role, I was amazed that we received hundreds of submissions, many of them highly recognizable names, for the Charles Manson part. To play Charles Manson is an amazing challenge; it was clear to me immediately that there’d be nobody better than Bill Moseley for the role. Hands down.”

As Lo is creating a film based on a story the world is very familiar with, she explained that it is indeed her fictional take on a true story. “It’s inspired by very true events, but I’m not a documentarian and this is not a documentary at all. It’s more my take on how America raised a nation of female killers and finding out about the neglect and isolation and, sometimes, downright abuse that happened to these eight girls, the eight I focused on,” Lo said. “I tried to hone down what was the truth and what wasn’t the truth. There have been so many conflicting stories.”

Finally, on a side topic, Lo talked about the recent surge of quality female directors within the horror genre. “I just attended a film festival of female horror directors,” Lo said. “Danielle Harris, who’s done a lot of horror films, is now directing one. The films that were there were really quite amazing. It was international, from all over the world, and I didn’t see one bad film there. I think the reason female horror directors are succeeding is a no-brainer. Always the woman survives to the end. And, admittedly for actresses, in a lot of the horror films directed by men, you’ve got to get naked but don’t get to speak much. I think a woman director will help you develop the character a little more. So if you’ve got to get naked or slaughtered, at least you’ve got a great scene beforehand!”

Synopsis
Manson Girls is the story of an American tragedy that could very well be destined to repeat itself if we don’t shine a light on this group of once innocent girls, who became monsters through neglect and abuse. Their often tragic childhoods led them to the devil incarnate, Charles Manson. This is the girls’ story, told from their perspective; a part of world history that will not go away, told with a fresh twist, not from Charlie’s perspective, not from Bugliosi’s perspective. This is all about the Manson Girls.

Manson Girls describes how America raised a nation of female serial killers. It’s told from the perspective of eight of the girls in the infamous Manson Family, starting from their teenage years before they met Charles Manson and ending just prior to the Tate/LaBianca murders.

Exclusive: Director Susanna Lo Gives Us The Skinny on the Upcoming Film Manson Girls

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Like Me – Will You Like This Dystopian Thriller?

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Starring Addison Timlin, Ian Nelson, Larry Fessenden

Directed by Robert Mockler


While Like Me is not dystopian in the classic science-fiction sense, it does aptly put the downer vibe across. If the present is abysmal, then the future is downright hopeless. We learn this as we follow an unhinged teenage loner called Kiya (Addison Timlin) on a hollow crime spree that she broadcasts on social media. At first the world “likes” her—with the exception of YouTube rival Burt (Ian Nelson), who disdainfully denounces her viral videos—but pride goes before the fall, and Kiya’s descent is spectacular.

If you’ve peeped the trailer for Like Me, then you’re probably expecting a horror movie. I mean, they’ve got the requisite menacing masked baddie and they’ve got genre icon Larry Fessenden in a major role—those are a couple of the key ingredients, right? Yes they are, but this simmering, shimmering stew of Natural Born Killers, Excision and King Kelly, it boils down to a whole lotta nothing. Like Me is sort of a drama, kind of a road trip flick, and almost a thriller. It succeeds at none yet does stand on its own as a compelling collection of cool visuals and pertinent performances. But is that enough?

While Kiya is a compelling character on the surface, there’s barebones beneath. Sure, she’s a Millennial mind-fed on random online clips and snappy soundbites—but what turned her into a psychopath? Was she born that way? Is social media to blame? We’ll never know, because not a hint is given. I don’t mind ambiguity, but even a morsel would have been welcome in this case. As Kiya ramps up her reckless exhibitionistic extremes, the stakes are never raised. In the end, who cares? Maybe that’s the point.

A word of warning: If you plan on watching this movie while chomping snacks…don’t. There is stomach-turning scene after vomit-inducing scene of orgiastic easting, binging, and the inevitable purging. I’m sure it’s all metaphorical mastication, a cutting comment on disposable consumption. I get it. But I don’t wanna look at it, again and again and again. Having said that, Like Me is an experimental film and in its presentation of such grotesquery, it’s quite accomplished. Montages, split-screens and jittered motions are scattered throughout, showing us all sorts of unpleasant things…Kudos to the editor.

I didn’t hate Like Me. But I do think one has to be in the mood for a movie such as this. It’s not an easy or entertaining watch, but it is a peculiar and thought-provoking one. There’s some style and mastery behind the camera, and I am curious to see what first-time writer-director Rob Mockler comes up with next.

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Last Toys on the Left

Funko Giving Jurassic Park the Pop! Treatment as Only They Can

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It is no secret we’re BIG fans of Funko’s Pop! Vinyl line here at DC HQ, and now they’ve announced a new series that has made our hearts just about burst… read on for a look at Pop! Movies: Jurassic Park, heading our way in February. The regular figures are awesome on their own, but wait until you see the exclusives!

From the Funko Blog:
Jurassic Park fans, get excited! To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the iconic film’s appearance on the silver screen, Jurassic Park is coming to Pop!

This series of Pop! features paleontologist Dr. Grant, Jurassic Park CEO John Hammond, mathematician Dr. Malcolm, and embryo-smuggler Dennis Nedry. (Keep an eye out for Dr. Ellie Sattler in Pop! Rides coming soon.)

We couldn’t forget the Jurassic Park dinosaurs! Featured in this line are the great T. rex, Velociraptor, and Dilophsaurus. Look for the Dilophosaurus chase, a rarity of 1-in-6.

Be on the lookout for exclusives. At Target you can find a wounded Dr. Malcolm, and the Dennis Nedry and Dilophosaurus 2-pack is available only at Entertainment Earth.

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
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Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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