Charles Manson is one of America’s most infamous criminals. During the sixties he formed a cult in California which culminated in a murder spree. The most prolific of those murders were that of Sharon Tate, wife of director Roman Polanski, and four other people at her residence. This is the true story upon which new DVD release Wolves at the Door hones in on.
Directed by John R. Leonetti (Annabelle, Wish Upon), the movie stars Arrow‘s Katie Cassidy as Tate, and Agent of Sheild‘s Elizabeth Henstridge as her BFF Abigail. Given that Leonetti has been director of photography on films such as The Conjuring and Insidious you would be forgiven for expecting Wolves to be terrifying. Sadly it doesn’t manage to convey any sense of dread or tension. The whole affair is rather bland, the action takes forever to get going, and when it does, it’s just not that exciting.
Wolves at the Door unfolds slowly. We open with another home invasion, one that sets the scene for what will come next. There’s been a spate of burglaries and the perpetrators are getting more violent. This is information that could easily be conveyed via a news report on a radio, television, or in a newspaper, rather than taking up the opening ten minutes. That may not sound like long, but when you consider the whole film is over within 73 minutes it is a massive chunk. It’s actually also the more interesting story.
We finally meet our core group fifteen minutes in and then proceed to spend far too much time getting to know not much about them. Abigail is about to move away to Boston and her pregnant BFF Sharon has arranged a leaving celebration. During the next half hour or so we don’t really find out anything of further interest about the group. It’s a shame really as a film so short really shouldn’t have dead air.
For a movie based on the Manson family’s most heinous crime, it really isn’t clear until the very end that it is the Mansons is who are doing the dastardly deed. The Manson Family themselves barely feature. They creep around in and out of the shadows every now and again, but their presence is never really felt. Furthermore, for one of the most brutal murders in American history, there’s a distinct lack of blood or violence. One murder we only see in a television set reflection, and at least one of the others happens off-screen entirely.
Manson and his followers have fascinated filmmakers for years, most recently being the subject matter of David Duchovny’s television show Aquarius. Rob Zombie is also rumoured to be looking at doing a film about Manson. It’s clearly the current flavour of the month, but frustratingly Wolves at the Door squanders the rich subject matter. With Charles Manson and his followers still interesting media audiences, it’s such a shame that this effort is wasted. There’s no tension or sense of peril. There’s also none of the crazy behaviour that the Manson Family apparently exhibited. The tormentors in this film however, seem quite happy to just slink around and kill the odd person hear and there.
A bland and uninteresting attempt to bring to life one of the most interesting and dangerous cults in American history. Wolves at the Door had promise, but failed to deliver.
Wolves at the Door is available on all home formats now.