Studio: North Bank Entertainment
Director: Andrew Jones
Writer: Andrew Jones
Producer: Andrew Jones, Robert Graham, Rebecca Graham, Jonathan Willis, Harry Willis
Stars: Brendee Green, Ciaron Davies, Michael David, Vicki Glover, Melissa Hollett, Derek Nelson, Darren Swain, Cassandra Hodges, Alexei Liss, Diana Deebs Franz, Sarah John
In 1992, a drug-addicted musician moves into Sharon Tate’s former home and experiences an unusual haunting connected to the Manson Family murders.
When it formed in the early 2010s, indie production outfit North Bank Entertainment mostly made unofficial sequels to public domain horror properties. First features included such forgettable flicks as “Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection” (review here), “Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming,” and “The Amityville Asylum” (review here).
At some point, the company’s tactics for making microbudget muck turned to exploiting true-life tragedies and urban legends. Subsequently, they began pumping out B-movie blather based on the supposedly haunted Borley Rectory, Ted Bundy and The Green River Killer, even an infamous Alcatraz escape attempt.
If you’ve seen any of North Bank Entertainment’s movies, you know they’re poorly produced, amateurishly acted, and feature slapdash cinematography hastily hacked together in less time than an average employer allots for a lunch break. You also realized this sooner than me, as I reviewed several NBE films before finally flying a white flag of surrender that they didn’t have a prayer in Hell of improving. Seriously, if you can tell the difference between a North Bank movie shot in 2019 versus one from 2013, you have a far better eye than me. Every one of their efforts looks like the work of a person picking up a camera for the very first time.
After figuring out their formula for churning out chunder, I swore off North Bank Entertainment productions entirely. Well, save for their dopey series of ‘Robert the Doll’ movies, which I can’t seem to stop myself from watching despite the fact that they too are terrible.
But curiosity compelled me to see how North Bank would handle the Sharon Tate murders in “The Manson Family Massacre.” After all, everyone else was already appropriating the event’s 50th anniversary to make a buck on a movie, so why not NBE?
Turns out “The Manson Family Massacre” isn’t as bad as I feared. It’s astonishingly worse than I possibly could have predicted.
“The Manson Family Massacre” takes place in a Los Angeles that you might mistake for Liverpool. As per North Bank’s M.O., “The Manson Family Massacre” was shot in the UK using a bevy of unknown British actors who either awkwardly attempt to mask their accents or don’t bother hiding them at all.
“Unconvincing” would be a kind way of characterizing performances. The man cast as Manson looks more like wrestler Hillbilly Jim than the crazed cult leader. Then there’s the obviously inexperienced greenhorn playing a supposedly seasoned detective involved in a laughably lame romance with the film’s female lead. This rickety roster is out of its depth in more ways than one, yet they are only the first stone paving a path toward preposterousness.
To add some illusion of an L.A. setting, the movie chucks in a recycled establishing shot of downtown Hollywood where a billboard advertising King Kong 360 in 3D at Universal Studios can clearly be seen. I don’t know what’s sadder about this inclusion. That a theme park ride that didn’t exist until 2010 appears during sequences set in 1992, or that the filmmakers could only source stock footage that’s nearly a decade old.
The “story,” and it pains me to use that word, involves Margot, a heroin addict who moves into Sharon Tate’s former home in 1992 seeking inspiration for her music. This is so “The Manson Family Massacre” can stake a second “inspired by true events” claim since Trent Reznor did exactly the same thing in real life. The difference is that it makes some macabre sense that the Nine Inch Nails frontman would use a Manson murder site as a muse. Why a singer-songwriter who crafts acoustic tunes ready made for Lilith Fair would want to invite that eeriness into her art is beyond me.
Troubling visions plague Margot, which is how the movie introduces some malarkey about psychic leylines intersecting beneath the Cielo Drive home. This creates a vortex of negative energy that allows Margot to see people concurrently existing in the past or something. Did I mention all of this is explained by a random waitress who overhears Margot discussing Manson with her Pirates of the Caribbean guitarist in a café?
This dippy device is just an excuse to shove in non-sequitur scenes of the most uninteresting moments in The Manson Family saga. Here’s Manson and Bruce Davis after Tex Watson burns Bernard Crowe in a drug deal. There’s Manson and Bobby Beausoleil terrorizing Gary Hinman over another drug deal gone bad. “The Manson Family Massacre” also includes the umpteenth recreation of the Tate murders in thoroughly dull fashion. But the ultimate outcome of the movie is a weirdo AA member inexplicably murdering Margot in her home. How the Manson flashbacks factor into this is anybody’s guess.
“The Manson Family Massacre” is a technical travesty too. Audio static regularly hisses underneath dialogue. “Effects” used to simulate hallucinations appear to be created in-camera. I’m at a loss to figure out how a production company averaging four feature releases every year since 2013 can continue to be this bad at basic filmmaking. I understand that North Bank Entertainment intentionally engineers cheapies, but at least invest in a tripod!
The movie runs only 70 minutes before cutting to unnecessary epilogue text reiterating everything already known about the 1969 crime’s aftermath. Except the text makes a point to mention, “Manson didn’t personally kill any of the (Tate-LaBianca) victims,” as if he should receive some compassionate consideration for not holding his hand on a knife hilt. Then the camera cuts to a cursory “In Memoriam” card packing nine murder victims into a Brady Bunch square, as though the production suddenly means to hold them in some sort of reverent esteem. It’s insulting, just like the entire film.
The whole affair is pointless pap in every possible respect. I’m comfortable calling “The Manson Family Massacre” the absolute tackiest Manson-related movie ever made, and I’ve seen “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” (review here).
Review Score: 15