‘Helter Skelter: An American Delusion’ assessment: Epix docuseries goes lengthy however not deep into the Manson household ‘delusion’

At first blush, given comparisons between the present political local weather and the tumult of the late 1960s, revisiting this era appears well timed — a lot in order that Epix truly postponed the deliberate June premiere by six weeks, as protests stuffed the streets.

Apart from some newly unearthed materials, although, and interviews with quite a lot of Charles Manson’s acolytes, the challenge largely rehashes what’s already recognized, whereas largely whiffing in its try to convey the lingering influence of the murders or clarify the enduring fascination with them greater than 50 years later.

The second hour encapsulates that dynamic, specializing in Manson, his upbringing and what may need motivated him psychologically to turn into a cult chief. That type of deep dive, nonetheless, does at the very least as a lot to romanticize this “American Delusion” as demystify or deepen our understanding of it.


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Manson moved to Berkeley’s Haight-Ashbury district, took LSD, yearned for fame as a musician, and realized ideas from watching the gurus in Golden Gate Park and Dale Carnegie’s course on how you can make pals and affect individuals. Principally, the docuseries provides to the archives of Manson lore primarily by sheer quantity.

The format does permit director Lesley Chilcott (who produced “An Inconvenient Fact”) to spend a bit extra time on Manson’s victims. There’s additionally audio from director Roman Polanski’s lie-detector check following the horrific homicide of his spouse, Sharon Tate, together with 4 others, pictures introduced by grisly crime-scene images.

On the identical time, the filmmakers (superhero producer extraordinaire Greg Berlanti is among the many govt producers) increase the presentation with tacky and pointless reenactments to boost the drama — displaying toes ominously strolling towards the Polanski home, for instance, or a door slowly creaking open.

Primarily based on the build-up and advertising claims, it is truthful to anticipate one thing extra. Regardless of dialogue in regards to the chaotic nature of the period, the breakdown of the social order and the spike in gun purchases that adopted the killings in August 1969, “Helter Skelter” sparingly makes the connection between then and now.

What’s left, then, is one other memorial to Manson’s depravity, which has already been documented in books, documentaries, motion pictures and miniseries — together with two beneath the identical title title in 1976 and 2004 — and the current fictionalized Quentin Tarantino movie “As soon as Upon a Time … in Hollywood.”

Authors and specialists interviewed have interaction in some dialogue within the remaining chapter relating to whether or not Manson’s long-reported purpose of triggering a race warfare truly motivated him. Citing his craving for fame and the lingering fascination with him, creator Jeff Guinn says, “The puppeteer performed us.”

Actually, Manson — who died in 2017 — actively perpetuated this “American Delusion.” But what “Helter Skelter” accomplishes, lastly, is to provide his crimes a renewed jolt of notoriety, with one other extended tug on the identical outdated strings.

“Helter Skelter: An American Delusion” premieres July 26 at 10 p.m. on Epix.