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The Resurrection of Charles Manson (2023) Review

Actors say a lot of interesting things about their films in the run-up to their release, but when Frank Grillo said on Jimmy Kimmel Live that The Resurrection of Charles Manson, then known as Man’s Son, “may be the worst movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life”, you have to take notice. Especially when his son Remy directed it. Granted, he also went on to say that after months of re-editing from notes given to him by his father and fellow director Gavin O’Connor (Warrior, The Accountant) he’d turned it into a “really good little movie”. But that initial assessment still lingered in my mind as I sat down to watch it.

Tianna (Katherine Hughes, Perfect Commando, Kingdom) is trying to create a perfect audition tape for an upcoming film about Charles Manson. But with noisy neighbours constantly ruining her efforts, she and her boyfriend Mitch (Josh Plasse, The House Behind the Wall, There’s No Such Thing as Vampires) decide to get an Airbnb in the desert to record it.

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We get an early hint that all is not well as Tianna flashes back to a grief therapy session dealing with the death of her fiancé Ben (Vince Hill-Bedford, Stoker Hills, American Fighter) while Mitch is busy dealing with an extremely creepy cashier who seems overly worried about his skin tone. Another flashback points towards commitment issues on Tianna’s part, something that doesn’t bode well for Mitch’s plans to propose while they’re there. But there may be a bigger problem, a cult whose leader (Frank Grillo, Black Lotus, Paradise Highway) plans to bring Charles Manson back from the grave.

The Resurrection of Charles Manson has a slow burn of a beginning, with director Remy Grillo and writers Brev Moss and Josh Plasse, all of whom are making their feature debut in those roles, focusing on the relationship between the leads and Tianna’s growing fixation on Manson as she tries to get into her character. What scares we do get up to the halfway mark are low key enough that they feel more like foreshadowing than anything else.

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Much like last night’s review, The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine, The Resurrection of Charles Manson leans heavily into flashbacks, nightmares, etc. to keep the viewer off guard and disoriented. And it works, for the most part, letting the midpoint reveal sneak up on me despite several clues. Unfortunately, while it does frequently work up some tension and a foreboding atmosphere, the film rarely manages to actually deliver scares. This probably has to do with the film’s apparently drastic recutting and the filmmakers’ interest in examining Manson’s legacy as well as making a horror film

“I wanted to explore where the children of Manson’s following stand in modern day. There is a dangerously close relevance between Manson’s ideology and today’s political and social atmosphere, and we believe it is time to resurrect the conversation.”

Remy Grillo

As an examination of Manson’s enduring place in pop culture, The Resurrection of Charles Manson falls even further short of the goal than it does as a horror film. Indeed, it feels more like a tacked-on justification for using the Manson name as a marketing gimmick. It could have been about any cult trying to resurrect anyone and told pretty much the same story.

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For fans of Frank Grillo, he’s barely in the film, appearing in the short prologue and a couple of brief scenes before Robert and Annie (Jaime King, Code Name Banshee, My Bloody Valentine) arrive in the final minutes for the ritual. Similarly, fourth billed Sarah Dumont (The Accursed, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) only has a couple of blink, and you’ll miss them appearances. Whether any of their roles were more fleshed out in the original cut there’s no way to tell, and I don’t foresee this becoming the kind of cult film that will warrant a release of the original version, though I would be curious to see it.

At seventy-five minutes, the version of The Resurrection of Charles Manson that we get never really has time to get boring, though it does get confusing at points. That includes the film’s coda, which seems to contradict several things we just saw. That said, the film does have its moments. Remy Grillo shows some potential and gets several solid performances from the cast. And cinematographer Parker Tolifson (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Like Lambs) gets a lot of mileage out of the desert setting which, as so many times before, just seems perfect for films about cults.

I can’t exactly recommend The Resurrection of Charles Manson, but it’s not a film I’d strongly warn the curious away from either. Manson and his followers have inspired much worse and unlike Once Upon a Time in Hollywood it won’t waste nearly three hours of your life. The Movie Partnership will release The Resurrection of Charles Manson to Digital Platforms in the UK on May 29th. In the US, it’s currently available on Digital via XYZ Films. If you’re interested in more films on the subject, FilmTagger can offer some suggestions.

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