Although 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!”
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.
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