Manson Family Vacation Movie Review
By Shannon McGrew
About a week ago, I was sitting in a movie theatre getting ready to watch a screening when the manager of the theatre came up to the front of the room. Since I attend a lot of screenings, this didn't seem out of the ordinary, the manager usually addresses the crowd prior to a movie to let us in on any special screenings that were coming up. As the crowd quieted down, the manager cleared his throat and announced that the following week there would be a special screening at the theatre, one in which they would not be advertising it on the website like they usually do. He continued on and told us that the theatre would be screening the new Duplass movie titled, "Manson Family Vacation." He also informed us that they were going to try to keep this as quiet as possible so as to not have any of Manson's "crazy" fans show up for the screening. Originally they were going to be Skyping with Manson but it seems at the last minute plans for that were scrapped.
Naturally I was intrigued by this. I've never been a fan of Charles Manson nor would I consider myself a person who is obsessed with serial killers. Sure, I love horror movies, and I have my own horror icon that I love, but when it comes to real life serial killers I never jumped on that train of being an obsessive fan. However, on a psychological level, I was intrigued by this movie and I was even more intrigued with the idea of Skyping with such a known individual. Even though the Skyping never took place, it didn't take away from how amazing this movie was. I'm sure at this point you are asking yourself what is "Manson Family Vacation?" Well let me fill you in!
"Manson Family Vacation" tells the story of two estranged brothers, Nick (Jay Duplass) and Conrad (Linas Phillips) who go on a tour of the Charles Manson murder sites. It's very apparent early on in the movie that the brothers couldn't be any different. Nick is a family man who has a good job but is tightly wound and Conrad is a free thinker who hasn't found his place in the world. You can see the strain, memories, hurt, and love between Nick and Conrad as the movie progresses and we find out more about Conrad's obsession with Charles Manson. Going into the movie, you think the focus is Charles Manson, but at the end of the movie it's clear that the focus has been on the relationship of the two brothers the whole time.
The movie does touch on Charles Manson of course. It shows interviews with Manson after he's arrested and Conrad walks around with Helter Skelter as if it was his own personal Bible. The movie also brings about the issue of if Manson should have ever been arrested in the first place because he technically never murdered anyone. Regardless of my opinion on that, I liked that the movie played Devils Advocate. I also liked that Tobin Bell was casted as Blackbird, one of Manson's followers. It was great to see him outside of his "Jigsaw" persona.
All in all, I really really enjoyed this movie. Not only was it refreshing to see an original movie come out of Hollywood, but I enjoyed how much heart and soul it had. The acting was strong and the story was believable (though maybe a little far fetched) and it made you care for the characters that you were seeing on screen. In conclusion, "Manson Family Vacation" is another solid film from the Duplass Brothers and one I hope many people get the chance to see.