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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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Night of the Living Dead 4K and The Silence of the Lambs Come to the Criterion Collection

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It’s been a long time coming for these two classics, especially Night of the Living Dead after the ridiculously bad transfer put out by Mill Creek Entertainment, whose transfer was supposedly remastered from a new 2K scan. I swear I thought it was some kind of a joke when I first put it on to watch. In any event…

IndieWire is reporting that horror classics Night of the Living Dead and The Silence of the Lambs will be added to the 2018 Criterion Collection, a hallmark label for home video cinephiles.

According to the site, Criterion will release a new 4K digital restoration of The Silence of the Lambs, which has been approved by the movie’s cinematographer Tak Fujimoto. Included on the DVD and Blu-ray sets are 35 minutes of deleted scenes and audio commentary from 1994 featuring the late Jonathan Demme (director), stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, screenwriter Ted Tally, and former FBI agent John Douglas.

Night of the Living Dead will also be released in 4K with never-before-seen 16mm dailies included as a bonus feature(!).

These will be added in February of 2018 so make sure you save up some cash after the holidays!

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DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!

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Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon

Directed by Adrian Corona


I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.

Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.

Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.

Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.

If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.

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4.5

Summary

Director Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended!

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User Rating 5 (2 votes)
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Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form

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Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes

Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace


“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.

That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.

Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?

At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?

These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.

Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?

It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.

If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End brings closure to hungry fans in all the ways they’d hope – albeit turned down a notch through animation. Over-the-top kills and headbanging metal riffs still reign supreme, they’re just drawn by hand instead of oozing practical effects this time.

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User Rating 3.11 (9 votes)
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