What do you think when you hear the name Charles Manson? Likely: cult leader, criminal, creep. Nevertheless, TV stations, film studios and authors have found a muse.
Jury’s still mostly out on what exactly draws us to the stories of people like Manson. They’re cold-blooded, likely psychopathic and, if faced with the horrors they’ve actually committed, we’d have a much different opinion.
Enough studies have been done about why we will eat up documentaries and movies narrating the lives and crimes of these people -- if you didn’t know what Ted Bundy did prior to this year, you do now -- and it basically comes down to exploring the dark side of the human condition that so many of us will never (and don’t wish to) tap into. It’s also a kind of puzzle: Why did they do it? What drove them? Motive is the motive, so to speak.
But the Manson Family in particular has been examined and fictionalized time and time again. Just this year, we’re getting three Manson-inspired movies. In April, “The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” starring Hilary Duff, will document the last night of Tate’s life against the backdrop of the horror genre. Come May, “Charlie Says” will be released, a film from the perspective of two imprisoned Manson girls years after the murders. And I'm convinced Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” would not be getting the hype it is if Margot Robbie’s version of Tate wasn’t part of the major cast announcements -- that comes out July 26. Not to mention Damon Herriman is taking the role of Manson in the film, a part he’s already reportedly stepped up to for the upcoming second season of Netflix’s “Mindhunter” (release date TBD).
And those are just upcoming film editions added to the dozen or so renditions about Manson that have already hit the big and small screens. Then we get into novels like “The Dead Circus” by John Kaye and “The Girls” by Emma Cline, stories that aren’t even directly about Manson but that pull you in for terrifying yet captivating stories.
Maybe we’re wondering what about Manson engrossed so many people, or what his real goal was for his family. Other true crime stories typically involve one murderer, one kidnapper -- but Manson’s story goes farther.
We’re familiar with cults; we’re familiar with serial killers. The combination of the two that created the Manson Family piques an interest that, for whatever psychological reason you can find, doesn’t seem to be fading anytime soon.
At least we get to watch Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt act together as a result.