By Casey Burchby
Jim Van Bebber's film, The Manson Family, about the sycophantic cult that sprang up around Charles Manson in the 1960s is disturbing and convincing in its evocation of that specific and deeply unsettling milieu -- a time and place where young people believed in hedonistic pleasure without consequences, where unlimited acid and sex were the keys to a liberated existence.
Van Bebber's low budget did not prevent him from spending 15 years making this film, applying a painstaking attention to detail and a wildly ambitious editorial approach that makes this 95-minute film feel rather more substantial than its running time might suggest.
Even more remarkable is the stomach-churning atmosphere of the film, which is established early on when we see a group of Manson-inspired young people preparing to torture and kill an unknown prisoner.
But Van Bebber's movie is supposed to be disturbing, and for a reason: because a cult of personality turned a group of otherwise "normal" kids into a band of killers, and the horror of those murders is something worth bearing in mind. Finally released in 2003, The Manson Family is touring the nation in a short theatrical run prior to its release on Blu-ray. Accompanying the feature will be Van Bebber's new short, Gator Green.
The Manson Family screens Saturday at the Clay Theatre at 11:55 p.m. (also Fri., March 22). Tickets are $10; 561-9921 or landmarktheatres.com.