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8 Reasons Quentin Tarantino’s Manson Family Murders Will Suck (And 7 Reasons it Won’t)

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8 Reasons Quentin Tarantino’s Manson Family Murders Will Suck (And 7 Reasons it Won’t)


Variety.com announced on November 17 that Sony Pictures had won the bells-and-whistles bidding war for Quentin Tarantino’s next film. The film (which was written and is to be directed by the “Kill Bill” master) will revolve around the Tate Murders, and with the recent death of murderer Charles Manson, the timing is oddly coincidental.

The Tate Murders refers to the frenzied murder of five people at an exclusive Los Angeles house in 1969. The murders were carried out by four members of the “Manson Family,” a quasi-Satanic religious cult where Manson was the leader. Although Manson wasn’t present at the house, he was later deemed guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and jailed for the deaths of two other people.

Sony Pictures beat Warner Bros. and Paramount to secure the distribution rights for the movie, which some think will be made in the first half of 2018. But cyber-judges are still deliberating on whether Tarantino is the best filmmaker for the subject matter and whether the tragic story of the Tate Murders has been dramatized just once too often.

Not much is known of the details of the film at this moment and there’s a lot of speculation about who will star in it. But one thing is certain; with Charles Manson’s death on November 19, the timing of Sony’s win could not have been more beneficial for producers and the director alike.

Before things are set in stone, let’s take a look at why we think the film (at the moment only called “#9”) will suck in some parts and not in others.

15. Will Suck: If It’s A Straight Retelling Rather Than An Inglourious Basterds-Style Fantasy

There was massive media coverage of the Tate Murders. The Manson Family’s involvement and the way in which Sharon Tate and the others at her house were killed has been a source of morbid fascination ever since. As a result, so much is known about what happened that night that anyone with an ounce of story-telling ability could write about it.

So what’s going to make this film watchable? Tarantino’s ability to shock will hopefully be put to good use again, but that will only work if he adds into his script something more than what we expect to be told about the murders. Perhaps if he adds a fantasy element like he did with the epic Inglourious Basterds (2009). If not, #9 is going to end up being just another straightforward telling of events or, more likely, a B-movie slasher.

14. Won’t Suck: Tarantino Is The King Of Realistic Violence

Whatever his angle on the story, we think Tarantino would have given the script his hallmark edge. After all, he is a maven of films that contain stylish violence and that connect with us on a deep visceral level. Take for instance Reservoir Dogs which captivated audiences of the Sundance Film Festival in 1992. It had it all — an iconic slow-motion scenes, comedy, and tons of cool-edged brutality.

Tarantino is, after all, the king of realistic violence which, when it comes to an account of the most brutal murder spree of the 1960s, would seem like the standout sentence of his résumé. Unless he takes the story to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, there will bound to be a graphic and unrelenting account of the murders.

13. Will Suck: The Murders Are Within Living Memory

One aspect of making a satirical film about the Second World War is that most people who were actively involved in the conflict and survived it have now died. That gives filmmakers a green light to weave made-up stories into the fabric of the war and effectively rewrite history to a believable degree. When we talk about something that happened only around 50 years ago, we know there are going to be people around who remember the tragic event.

At the time of her death, Sharon Tate was married to film director and actor Roman Polanski (Death and the Maiden (1994), The Pianist (2002)). He later recalled in his autobiography: “Sharon’s death is the only watershed in my life that really matters;” he went on to explain that it had changed him from an optimist to a pessimist with “eternal dissatisfaction with life” (Roman by Polanski, 1984).

12. Won’t Suck: Tarantino Is A Supreme Filmmaker

Sony, WB, and Paramount vied for Tarantino’s script to such a degree that he was welcomed to the headquarters of each one as though he were royalty. That’s because the director, who was 24 when he wrote his first screenplay, My Best Friend’s Birthday, is today thought of by producers as the most influential director of his generation. So it was only to be expected that the biggest film distributors in the world were keen not to lose the rights to #9.

Reservoir Dogs was called the “Greatest Independent Film of All Time” by Empire Magazine in 1992 and the film which followed — Pulp Fiction — was equally loved by critics. So too was Pulp Fiction a box-office success. Its budget of $8.5 million was returned handsomely after the film amassed $107.93 million from its theatre release in the United States. Internationally, the film made around $213 million.

11. Will Suck: If It Sympathizes With Charles Manson’s Motivations

Throughout Manson’s court case, juries heard how he had been able to manipulate members of his commune to such an extent, they would commit murder. They also heard how Manson had likened himself to Jesus (and later the Devil) and proclaimed the Family’s duty was to rid the world of materialism. Before the four Family members carried out the killings, Manson is noted to have told them to, “totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can.”

Tarantino’s style is sometimes exploitative and violent, and at times, sensationalizes killings. Some film buffs are concerned that sympathizing with Manson’s way of control or turning him into some sort of inspiring boss would be the wrong tack to travel. And that’s not them being prudish; it’s a hint at how many think the subject needs careful handling. Not doing so would be as tasteless as giving Hitler a Captain Jack Sparrow makeover.

10. Won’t Suck: Margot Robbie Is Tipped For The Role Of Sharon Tate

Australian actress Margot Robbie began her film career in Y2K and has since starred in films such as The Wolf of Wall Street, The Legend of Tarzan, and Suicide Squad in which she played the fictional super-villain Harley Quinn. Film pundits have suggested that she is one of the front-runners for the part of Sharon Tate in #9.

If that’s the case, and Robbie is announced in due course, it will be the first time she and Tarantino work together. There’s been no confirmation of cast by either producers or Tarantino as of yet, but Robbie seems to be a natural choice, at least because of her facial similarities to Tate. Sharon Tate was, by all accounts, a strong-willed and self-confident woman: the perfect character-type for Tarantino who is known for his habit of placing women in powerful and defining roles in his movies.

9. Will Suck: If The Story Is Told From Sharon Tate’s And Her Guests’ Perception

Despite the concerns about how Charles Manson and his family may be portrayed by Tarantino, the general consensus, online at least, is that the story would be better told from the point of view of the killers. This would give the film a grittier edge and allow for some interesting asides on how exceptionally well Manson could “play” people for his own cause. It would also mean that we could learn more about the plans he made before the murders took place.

Tate and three others in the house — Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and Abigail Folger — who were murdered had got together socially that night. While their lives were undoubtedly colorful and refined by wealth, it’s generally thought their story would not be as audience-gripping compared to what went on between Manson and his followers. Let’s leave it up to Tarantino to decide which “wheels” will drive the movie.

8. Won’t Suck: If It’s Anything Like Jackie Brown

American crime thriller Jackie Brown was released in theatres in 1997. It was Tarantino’s third movie and was distributed by Miramax, the company responsible for Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Tarantino wrote the screenplay and directed the film, and it’s the only one of his scripts that was adapted from a previous work. The film stars Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bridget Fonda.

Jackie Brown is widely considered to be one of Tarantino’s best films. Although it doesn’t have the same feel as Pulp Fiction, the style of its direction, attention to historic detail, and energy have earned it big praise. The film’s co-star and frequent performer of Tarantino’s work, Samuel L. Jackson, called the film his personal favorite. It was nominated for 14 awards including an Academy Award for best supporting actor and earned a box office gross of $9 million in its first weekend alone.

7. Will Suck: The Tate Murders Have Been Dramatized So Much

Has the subject been written about too much? Possibly. Media attention of the case has waned only a little across five decades, which gives rise to the possibility that our numbness to the events is greater now than it ever was. Surely another film about the Tate Murders would be like making another film about a soldier based at a lonely fort in the American Civil War dancing with a wolf.

Manson (1973) was one of the first films to recount the Tate Murders and after this came Helter Skelter (1976), which was remade in 2004. In 2015, the Hollywood-based podcast, You Must Remember This, broadcast a production about the Manson Family which was followed shortly afterwards by the TV show Aquarius. And we haven’t even started on the dozens of documentaries that have aired on TV throughout the years.

6. Won’t Suck: If Tarantino Rewrites A Part Of History Like Inglorious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds was reputedly one of Tarantino’s favorite projects of all time. And at least, when we talk about its imaginative plot line, it’s apparent that rewriting the course of the Second World War would have been, if nothing else, fun. In a climactic scene toward the end of the film, Adolf Hitler’s attendance at a small film theatre is to be his last; with relative ease two members of the Basterds [spoiler alert!] end WW2 in a hail of bullets.

Undoubtedly, there were assassination plots against the German Chancellor (one of which is slickly portrayed in the 2008 film Valkyrie), but none appeared successful. Although Tarantino’s depiction of one such plot was pure fiction, it worked perfectly in the context of Inglourious Basterds. If, with #9, he rewrites history again by wedging a historical figure like Hitler between the lines of the plot, then we know the film is worth going to see.

5. Will Suck: If A Vengeful Sharon Tate Rises From The Dead

Let’s not get carried away. Even though filmmakers want us to let go of our grip on reality for two or three hours, there are some things that can never be believed. A prime example of this is the critically-slated, The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen. The film’s satirical take on the leader of North Korea earned it points, but its gradual bleeding of comedy left some critics like Scott Foundas of Variety cold. “Cinematic waterboarding,” he called it, and said it was “about as funny as a communist food shortage, and just as protracted”.

If Tarantino has written that Sharon Tate comes back to life to avenge the death of her friends, we may have to think again about buying those tickets. But it would be interesting to find out what she thinks of widower Polanski’s 1989 marriage to a French actress 33 years his junior.

4. Won’t Suck: Charles Manson Is Dead 

Perhaps one of the most entertaining aspects about watching a portrait of a killer’s life is when we know the killer is dead. Otherwise, audiences are hit with the hard-to-swallow realization that, despite his victim’s losing their lives, the perpetrator is still living his. After all, one of the major narrative must-haves of storytelling is that an audience leaves the theatre with a sense of justice, divine or otherwise.

With Manson’s death on November 19, #9 can be made with a semi-clear conscience, even though some of those who carried out the murders are still alive in various Californian penitentiaries. If Tarantino does make Manson into a rock star, at least the man won’t be around to see it. Relatives of victims will also be relieved that Manson has gone, although that is probably of little help to their feelings of loss.

3. Will Suck: If It’s As Long And Unimaginative As The Hateful Eight

The Western The Hateful Eight was released two weeks before Christmas in 2015. It had a promising plot which sounded a little like something Alfred Hitchcock would have enjoyed exploring: “In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.” The film starred s Kurt RussellJennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, and Tim Roth.

Although it did not do too badly at the box office, it was still considered a “disappointment” and is regarded by many critics as a rare Tarantino flop. Owen Gleiberman of the BBC wrote, “I’m not alone in thinking that it’s Tarantino’s worst film — a sluggish, unimaginative dud, brimming with venom but not much cleverness.” And in fact, he was not alone. The New York Times added their voice: “Some of the film’s ugliness… seems dumb and ill-considered.”

2. Won’t Suck: Tarantino Was Given A Colossal Budget 

With a deal struck with Sony news emerged of the budget Tarantino was requesting for #9, it was rumored to be close to $100 million dollars. which even by Hollywood standards is a sizeable amount. Having said that, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides holds the record for the most expensive film ever made at $378.5 million.

We can be certain that the film will be distinctive. Its content will be of an usual mix of violence, pop culture, and parody, but so too will the dialogue be snappy and 100 per cent profane. Even with The Hateful Eight, that aspect of the production was sound. But we must presume that the film’s budget will be concerned mostly with the authenticity of the age in which the story takes place. Creating a major set from the 1960s is no mean feat and will spin the dollar symbols.

1. Will Suck: If There Are Too Many Big Celebrities In It

Perhaps some of Tarantino’s stock actors will join him for his next venture. It’s plausible, especially when we consider his repeated use of actors such as Samuel L Jackson and Michael Madsen from earlier films. It’s not unheard of for directors to use the same actors in subsequent productions. Working relationships are quickly forged in the world of movie-making and given the choice, directors will choose to work with someone they have known previously.

There are one or two grumbles afoot when it comes to the possibility of overloading #9 with famous names. The argument against doing so is not entirely clear, but it would seem to stem from worries about the film ending up too sensationalized and celebrity-led. Many believe the film should portray the subject in a more balanced and grounded way. However, there are rumors Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Samuel L. Jackson will join Tarantino once again. And to be honest, we wouldn’t mind seeing Robbie and DiCaprio together on the silver screen once again.

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