The murders committed by Charles Manson and his followers — better known as his “family” — 50 years ago continue to mesmerize those fascinated by the true crime horror of the slaughter of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and three others. This May, Charlie Says, a new film that explores the aftermath of those murders, is being released.
“Years after the shocking murders that made the name Charles Manson synonymous with pure evil,” offers the film’s distributor, IFC, “the three women who killed for him — Leslie Van Houten (Hannah Murray), Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon), and Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendón) — remain under the spell of the infamous cult leader (Matt Smith). Confined to an isolated cellblock in a California penitentiary, the trio seem destined to live out the rest of their lives under the delusion that their crimes were part of a cosmic plan — until empathetic graduate student Karlene Faith (Merritt Wever) is enlisted to rehabilitate them. Convinced the prisoners are not the inhuman monsters the world believes them to be, Karlene begins the arduous process of breaking down the psychological barriers erected by Manson. But are the women ready to confront the horror of what they did? Boundary-pushing auteur Mary Harron (American Psycho, I Shot Andy Warhol) presents a provocative new perspective on one of the most notorious crimes of the 20th century.”
In an interview with TheUpcoming.com in England, screenwriter Guinevere Turner and director Mary Harron were asked why they wanted to make this film. “I was hired to write a film about the Manson girls — I can’t stand those two words together, considering they are women in their ’60s who have been in prison for 45 years,” says Guinevere. “I did a lot of research and tried to find a new way to tell the story and eventually I came across Karlene Faith and her time teaching them in prison. I thought, ‘This is a great story, this reimagining of a well-trodden territory from a woman’s perspective.'”
Adds Mary, “I was reading it as a friend as I was really intrigued when she said she was going to include the perspective of the women in prison three years after the murders and what happened to them, because no one has covered that. I said if the director who’s attached doesn’t do it, I would be interested. I love the women-in-prison stuff and I find Karlene a really wonderful character.” Needless to say, she ended up taking on the film.
Charlie Says will be released in theaters on May 10 and be available for streaming a week later.