When Nick receives a surprise visit from his brother Conrad, who is travelling across country to begin a new job and life with a suspiciously mysterious environmental company, he soon discovers his brother’s obsession with infamous cult leader Charles Manson. As Conrad drags him around Los Angeles to visit the historical hotspots of the two nights in August 1969 and snap some selfies at murder sites, the disturbing depths of his fixation become revealed.
Regardless of your personal opinions of his legacy, you can’t deny that Charles Manson has left a lasting impact on the American landscape. Were it not for the infamous murder spree that ended with his life imprisonment, it’s entirely possible he would have grown to be a counterculture icon embraced by all rather than an underground few.
Conrad’s fascination with Manson involves endlessly watching his TV interviews and espousing extracts of his personal philosophy, extending even to the point of modelling his appearance on the man. As the brothers travel around the city, his childish enthusiasm for being in the exact places where these horrific events took place becomes impossible for him to restrain, responding to people’s distaste for his morbid fascination as if their reactions were somehow utterly unreasonable. He perceives the murder victims as simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, almost as if they were a small detail that should be overlooked, and should simply be written off as an unfortunate mistake that has tainted an otherwise worthy legacy. While it’s a point of view some people genuinely hold, being admired for your achievements does not excuse being guilty of horrific crimes and the punishment that follows. Nobody is ever going to argue that Ian Watkins will be best remembered as the narcissistic singer in Lostprophets.
The film uses the discord to look at themes of sibling rivalry and make a statement that even family members have things they don’t know about each other. A couple of significant and unlikely turns take the story into dark and more than a little disturbing territory, and slightly distracts from the film’s primary intent of being an exploration of family fractures, while also acting as an examination into the philosophical sway Manson holds to this day.
MANSON FAMILY VACATION / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: J. DAVIS / STARRING: JAY DUPLASS, LINAS PHILLIPS, LEONORA PITTS, TOBIN BELL, DAVIE-BLUE / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10