Movie Review: Charlie Says



Now available for purchase, rent and streaming is drama, Charlie Says, based off the shocking murders that made the name Charles Manson synonymous with pure evil. This film focuses on the lives of three of his followers involved in those horrific murders –  Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and Susan Atkins.

The women are portrayed by Marianne Rendon (Atkins), Sosie Bacon (Krenwinkle) and Hannah Murray (Van Houten). Sosie Bacon is the daughter of Kevin Bacon. She looks a lot like her father.

I’m not entirely sure if this film is totally accurate, but it does seem to give you a glimpse into the lives of these ladies who followed Manson and lived with him on Spahn Ranch.

The movies is based off a book written by Karelene Faith, who is a teacher that worked at the prison where the ladies were being held. The story is from the conversations she had with the three women.

Karelene Faith (played by Merritt Wever) is asked to teach the three ladies, who are being held together (different cells, same area) away from the general population. The prison doesn’t know what else to do with them. They don’t want them with the rest of the inmates in fear that the ladies will turn them into Manson followers.

As Karelene is trying to educate the women on a variety of subjects (mostly women related topics), she learns a lot about the women and their time with Manson.

A lot of the film is based on the memories of Leslie Van Houten, how she came to the ranch, and her life with Manson and his followers, as well as the events that lead up to the horrific murders.

Leslie arrived on the ranch after being recruited by other Manson followers. She was young and naive and instantly drawn in to the charismatic Manson from the very first moment she met him. It was also a bit overwhelming to her how life was on the ranch, especially after being given speed shortly after she arrived, and witnessed a lot of “free love” from other ranch followers.

Most of this film weaves the present day (with Karelene) and flashbacks to life on the ranch. Viewers of the film get an insight into what went on at the ranch, from the non-stop drug abuse and casual sex, to dumpster diving for food to Manson’s abusive and manipulative ways.

Karelene sees these women as victims more so than people who knowingly and willingly committed the murders. They DID know what they were doing, but they didn’t see it as “wrong” because of the psycho-babble Mason was feeding them on a daily basis. They thought they were doing what was necessary. They didn’t see it as being wrong.

I have read stories about how Manson was able to control his followers. However, what they did is unforgivable, even if these ladies were brainwashed. There had to be some kind of a conscious left that would tell these women that murdering is illegal and immoral.

I don’t think this film is meant to make viewers feel any kind of compassion towards these women. I think the film is meant to give you an insight into who these women are/were (Susan Atkins died of brain cancer) and how Manson was the ultimate “puppet master.”

This is an interesting film and story. I never knew any of their backstory. I found it fascinating how quickly Manson was able to lure people into is beliefs and how he was able to control and manipulate them so easily. He truly was the world’s most evil man.

Overall I found the film interesting. I think the acting was done well, and the casting was pretty good (Matt Smith portrays Charles Manson very well).

There is a lot of sex, nudity and drug use in this film. I think it was necessary for this film to show just how these women and other followers lived when they were with Mason. Sex and drug use was done as natural to them as drinking a glass of water, or breathing for that matter.

I think they did go a wee bit overboard with the sex stuff however. The could have tamed it down a bit (I’m not a prude, but I feel like somethings could have been done more tastefully).

Charlie Says is no longer in theaters, but you can find it on digital and for purchase.

Below is the trailer for your enjoyment.



*I received a free screener copy to review. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way.

About Kimberly

Kimberly Vetrano resides in the suburbs of New York City with her family and "mini zoo" consisting of five cats, a dog and a Goldfish. Kimberly is a teacher's assistant for a Kindergarten class. When she is not working or blogging, Kimberly enjoys taking photos of nature and hanging out with family and friends.


  1. Seems like an interesting film. It blows my mind how someone like Manson can brainwash and control others to do their bidding.