"More Abhorrent than Enlightening"
CHARLIE SAYS focuses on the story of a young girl who’s accepted into the following of Charlie Manson in 1969, quickly becoming one of his followers and eventually committing murder for him. Although quite well done, this movie contains an exorbitant amount of immoral, graphic, questionable content. CHARLIE SAYS is more abhorrent than enlightening.
The movie begins when a young woman named Leslie Van Houten is welcomed to spend a few days with a group of people in a commune outside of Hollywood, at the Spawn Ranch on the northernmost side of the San Fernando Valley. She’s soon introduced to the leader of these people, Charlie Manson. He makes her feel special. He makes her feel beautiful. Most importantly, he makes her feel loved. Right away, a tab of LSD is placed on her tongue and she accompanies the group up a mountain where they have a service of types. Instruments are played and everyone sits in awe as Charlie speaks. He talks about denying the things of the world, living off the land and living their lives with pure love. He points out a woman’s scars and has everyone around her tell her how beautiful she is despite these things.
The next day, Leslie is invited to go scavenging with the girls in town to look for food. Before they leave, Charlie instructs her to give any cash she has to a man, because women aren’t allowed to have money. Later that night, she makes the decision to stay, and Charlie gives her a new name, Lulu. It doesn’t take long before she’s a believer of all the things Charlie says, and Charlie himself. She makes newcomers feel welcome and does as she’s told.
One member of the group who pops in when he can is a member of the famous band, the Beach Boys. Charlie plays and writes music as well, and this man tells him that he pitched one of his songs to the band. Soon, a big shot music producer comes out to hear Charlie play, and Charlie wants to make sure everything is perfect. Despite what Charlie says, the producer doesn’t seem to be impressed and gives him the runaround when Manson tries to contact him. He decides to go personally, but when he arrives to the house, there seems to be a party, and they say that the producer isn’t there.
Furious, Charlie returns, beginning to devise a plan. He begins teaching his followers that there will be an uprising of black people starting a race war against white people, called “Helter Skelter,” a reference to a minor silly song performed by the Beatles. Charlie has everyone practice using knives and stabbing imaginary black people to prepare for this supposed war. Soon, he instructs a few of his followers to go to that house and kill everyone in it.
Throughout this story, there are scenes that flash forward to when Lulu and two other Manson girls have been convicted of murder and are sitting in high security cells. They still cling to the teachings of Charlie and believe that one day they will live underground, yet emerge years later with wings like butterflies. A woman working at the prison takes time to talk to them regularly. She does crafts with them and tries to make them see the truth about the chaotic rubbish that Charlie filled their heads with for more than a year, and other women for even longer.
This story is nothing short of haunting, showing a glimpse into the world of the women who were completely brainwashed by Charlie Manson into believing that whatever he said was true. Written by a woman who belonged to a cult when she was a child, CHARLIE SAYS is very well done, with compelling characters that can create empathy within the audience with ease. If the purpose was to make the viewer feel disturbed and frustrated, the filmmakers have succeeded. Listening to the girls’ wholehearted belief in Charlie Manson is heartbreaking, especially as their world slowly begins to shatter.
However, the questionable immoral content in CHARLIE SAYS is absolutely excessive. The movie has a very strong Romantic, politically correct, feminist worldview that often blames Charlie Manson’s sexist philosophies for brainwashing the women under his control to commit murder for him. For example, Manson refuses to let the women under his control carry money, and they always eat last.
CHARLIE SAYS is also dominated by false religion. Manson teaches freedom of expression and love, as well as parts of the Bible, yet compares himself to Jesus and believes that a prophecy in Revelation is referring to him. Manson also preaches free love, so there’s an extremely high amount of sexual content and nudity that’s almost completely unnecessary to properly tell this story. The violence and foul language is also extreme, with many bloody scenes and almost 30 “f” words.
Ultimately, CHARLIE SAYS is more abhorrent than enlightening. Despite its chilling portrayal of Charlie Manson and his hypnotic hold on his followers, susceptible viewers might end up copying some of the evils they see in CHARLIE SAYS.
CHARLIE SAYS takes place near Hollywood in 1969, but far enough away to where a group of people can live and not be bothered. Here, Charlie Manson has a following of people who have abandoned their previous lives to pursue Charlie, the one person they believe has more truth and love. However, Manson has ulterior motives with his loyal followers. He begins to feed them a crazy story about a coming race war, prophesied by himself. Soon, his believers will have to prove their loyalty when he begins to assign them increasingly violent tasks.
CHARLIE SAYS is a haunting look into the lives of the female followers in the cult of Charlie Manson, but it contains a high, graphic amount of immoral, explicit content. The story is told from the point of view of a new recruit, who questions the methods of the leader, but ultimately is persuaded to do unthinkable things. The movie’s worldview is negative from beginning to end. Also, the amount of foul language, sexual content, nudity, and drug abuse is excessive. Ultimately, CHARLIE SAYS is more abhorrent than enlightening.