The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019) and the ambient nightmare, part 1.

Rev., Aug 5, 2019.

This is another deep summer piece. Spoiler alert, recommended viewing movie first, it’s on Amazon Prime.

Once more, a consideration of the murders on Cielo drive on August 9, 1969, this time involving the not bad movie, The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019), which, surprisingly, had several strengths to it. This is especially true, since dreaming seems to be at the core, in the dreamlike nature of some of the proceedings. This starts out early. The movie does an excellent job of suturing in a location of a house or houses that look pretty much like the now demolished house on Cielo drive, for this it makes a clear statement of intent that it believes something about the hills and canyons of the surroundings contributed to the strange rendering of the deaths. In my way of thinking, the movie does this by moving out from the strictly hypnagogic, to the ambient, where things spin around the perimeter. This then creates a mental space between the core of the hypnagogic mind and the locale of the ambient, things spinning like earworms in the head up at the edges, which opens up a lot of paths from inside to outside, to capture a feeling. This starts early, when as the movie recaps the events with headlines, etc., we get a very strange crawl, still, in the title, as the camera comes through a gate, and a path curves to the left in front of us.

a 0 1then it breaks out into the open, with pool on the left, LA opening up wide in front, we see the body of Abigail Folger.

a 0 2then the camera spins around over her, with more shots of the canyon, we come on the body of Woytek

a 0 3In this case, the movie circles the house, between the house and the canyon. The geography is a bit off, as in real life the lawn at Cielo sloped down to the driveway, on the way out, where here it seems to dead end at the edge of the cliff, no way out, but it signals that there is a spinning, ambient spirit to this outing, that will be important. Indeed, the movie is filled with wide open shots of the hills, the canyon, and LA in the distance. We introduce the day, and it lets us know we are in the canyon

a 0 0we get to night, and the view goes on the town, in whole, the whole overlook

a 0 5when Sharon and Jay talk over her suspicions that Roman is having another affair, it is over the view

a 0 6as the day before the killing comes, I think, there is even a shot that is telling us, this is going to be told backwards, it is the dOOdWYLIOH (“dude, woytek is a liar”) sign, this is good movie making (the roads too echo the strange cthulhulike Ouija board they used the night before too).

a 0 7Sharon and Abigail go for a walk in the canyons, talking things over

a 0 8the beautiful valley

a 0 10but then we are reminded, it is wild, her dog, Saperstein, is killed

a 0 11on the day of, ominous clouds

a 0 12aerial views

a 0 13the full moon, its baleful sentience

a 0 14in the murders, a surprising emphasis on the escapes of Woytek and Abigail, into the view

a 0 15a view of the second Manson girl killing

a 0 16again, the next night

a 0 17when the actual murders occur, as in The Helter Skelter Murders (1971), there is Tex in the wildernessness of it, breaking the seal of sacred ground, as I analyzed it in that movie.

a 0 18in an effect which weaves into others, which I talk about in a bit, Susan walks the perimeter, as if circling her prey, and house, trying to terrorize from without, in ambience, in encirclement.

a 0 20then, the morning after

a 0 21a great and meaningful shot, given what comes next, the HOLLYWOOd sign is ghostly in the fog

a 0 22more scenery, wide, with a weirdly significant day moon, the High Light

a 0 23Three things. First, just as a man standing over a view of a city from his penthouse office represents power, so too this wide ambient view emphasis puts the emphasis on Sharon’s star nature, and the fact, which is mentioned here, the only time I have heard it made mention of, cielo means heaven, this IS a device that, here as in the 1971 version, makes Cielo drive into a goddess’s temple.

Two, the American flag is used quite a bit in this movie, to symbolize the fact that the crime was an affront, or an embodiment of America at the time, it is America, this is about America. In real life, the American flag was placed there by Manson after the fact, precisely to make that point, this is me tearing down America, somehow it has survived as a primary trope of the killing, so that the killing, and the body of Sharon Tate, is symbol of the decline or whatever of America. This involves creating a simple nexus between a positive and a negative, to by their interactive spin, twist each over the other, positive over negative, negative over positive, to give the event a graphic pingpongy significance. Since the sign that the Romans carried in front of troop are called signa, I call this too, as I have before, a signa set up.

a 0 24it is the same thing with the view, the view of LA, it says, at all times, when it backdrops the foreground shot, this is about LA in 1969, it is allegory of that time, it represents what LA was all about, it creates a nexus in the meaning of the events which elevates them for them to comment on something bigger or greater in the culture as a whole. Thus, it has that symbolic purpose, the creation of a signa, as the flag did.

But, finally, and more importantly, as I have worked it out, for a while, a horror movie has a certain tone based on where the scares come from, close or far from the core of life as experienced as the life force in the human body at the center of the action. If it is close, or “inside the head,” that is a hypnagogic horror movie, by far, overwhelmingly, the primary sight of horror movies; but if the movie spends more time worrying about the ambient forces circling it, then it is an ambient horror movie, American Werewolf in London, for example, is an ambient horror movie; it might cause problems in terms of reading the scares as scares, that they come in from ambient places; finally, there is the insentient, dark often natural or meteorological forces which sweep in, so as I have worked out in Argento’s Phenomena. This is an ambient horror movie, and if you sit down hoping for a hypnagogic one, then it is ambient, you are going to be off, in terms of catching everything. But, having put 10050 Cielo drive up in the canyon, high over the city, in the woods, basically in the wilds, the director has decided that it will be haunted primarily by ambient forces coming in on it. It is more like a cabin in the woods, than a house in the city.

But, now, the thing that probably confused viewers, and maybe did not seem scary to them, is that if you choose to make an ambient horror movie, then the scares must be in the currency, that is, of ambient scares. Thus, the scares which make Sharon more and more paranoid are primarily two.

First, she is annoyed that Manson has stopped by the house. She is freaked out by him, and when she learns that he has stopped by a lot, even been to a few parties, that is way worse. In real life, this incident happened once, only once, and it happened in March, 1969, it is conjectured that by this turnaway, Melcher having already moved, that, somehow, 10050 Cielo was converted into a symbol of everything that locked Manson out. But, here, we have it the night before the killing, this did not happen, though Manson did stop by after the killings on the night of, he knew where it was.

a 0 25but we see Manson walk away, meaning that he is cast here, as her was not in life, as the bogeyman, whose spirit or evil vibe is encircling the house

a 0 26this even causes her, in the movie’s least effective moments, to see him in the house, as a vision

a 0 27the movie even suggests that Manson might’ve been there for the killings, he was not, but this part of it does not really work. Still, it is a haunting, it haunts her, it makes her feel trapped.

But, then, too, this also scares her because at the beginning of the movie she admits that a year in advance of the murders, she had a premonition, and it seemed a lot like the murders. She got up in the middle of the night

a 0 28by her bed she sees Manson, so, in this aspect, Manson is simply a gray, or a hag attack figure, standing in the room of the sleeper, a nightmare, but seen as if real in a state of second-wake up hypnagogy.

a 0 30but then, this figure has enough power to lead her into the main room

a 0 31where she has a premonition of the murders.

a 0 32This is possibly based on the premonition of danger that Tate felt in the Jay Sebring house, which is reported on Six degrees of Helter Skelter (2006), she did not have this at Cielo; or this version has moved up Manson’s stop bys, to become a major part of the haunting, in the process vacating the actual visit to Cielo drive by Manson, in March, at Cielo, and vacating that, they put a premonition dream into that slot, a simple rearrangement of the time frames. Still, it situates all hauntings as modelled on this premonition, with a gray of hag attack figure, embodied in this case by Manson, as the blueprint.

Then, when the hauntings based on this blueprint began to play out in the days leading up to August 9, there is a better aspect of it. She is woken up twice by the tape deck in Roman’s office going on and playing Manson’s song, this too freaks her out. But what this does is translate the ambient spin into a kind of haunting that would be classifiable as ambient, a sound, an acoustic haunting, an, in effect, earworm, which now spins in her head around her. in the first haunting, it is in the daytime, but the song makes her freak.

a 0 33even worse, spinning the acoustic haunting back to the original haunting, that is, Manson roaming around the grounds, she finds not one, but a whole series of envelopes which Manson has left with Melcher, or at the door, mistakenly trying to get them to him that way, and they are scrawled with angry names, sickly, and there are a lot of him, that means that he has come here a lot, and Woytek is not telling her the truth.

a 0 34this then fuels her feeling against Woytek and Abigail, and, later, the morning after her nightmare, she tears into them, in a very raw scene. Finally, Woytek has to confess that this man has been to a few parties (he never had, in life), but he did not know them.

a 0 35But, though this haunting does not, in my view, yield any good hauntings, it is interesting, as an ambient spin.

This then also fuels a second ambient spin haunting when Sharon goes down to the trailer where Steven Parent lives as caretaker (in life, Garretson lived in a guest house, Parent stopped by the night of the murder over the sale of a tape deck, or something, then when coming out, drive right up to Tex, to get killed).

a 0 36this is the occasion of the only back of head shot, which, as in Polanski’s Repulsion, and in so many other movies, means, all of this is in her head

a 0 37she is following a paranoia that is in her headshe comes to Parent, to ask him to play the tape, to tell him if there is anything wierd about it. there is, he says it is coded, there is an encode.

a 0 38this then clues into the use of subliminal messages, which was a thing then, for real in the 50s and early 60s, thought to be able to, then, in horror movies, brainwash people, like the Manchurian Candidate, but then it keeps going, it was a trope at the time, it is fun to see it here. This means that the evil tape deck really was trying to scare her, much like the evil music in Zombie’s Lords of Salem (2012).

a 0 39He then, LOL, names the technique

a 0 40and that it says Helter Skelter

a 0 41the Beatles are mentioned, it’s from the White Album.

a 0 42then, of course, Parent ascribes supernatural force to it, because this is a horror movie, making Sharon even more afraid that she was being hypnotized by a subliminal backmask message in the magic stereo that came on by itself, meaning that in audition Manson was also actually haunting, indoctrinating, suborning and seducing, it’s a pretty good idea.

a 0 43The real reference, of course, is to the fact that Manson developed his whole evil theory of Helter Skelter and the end of the world, by way of the Beatles white album, and the song of that name. This suggests that in addition to simply using the music as a bible, he made use of a technique he found in it, in what songs at present I don’t know, but maybe Revolution Number 9, and then from that he worked out the technique to turn it into a supernatural hypnotizing force. So the trope takes one fragment of idea from the reality of Manson’s interest in the Beatles, his exploitation of them; then marries it to another, and even to the broader idea that it was through backmasking on subsequent albums that the Beatles communicated to the world and its fans that Paul was dead, which is also a good idea, an interesting spin is made. And this works in this context because, again, an acoustic haunting is ambient, it moves in ambient space, it is, therefore, consistent, as a sharpening into focus, to a close level, of the ambient haunting of Manson coming round to the house time and again to deliver these angry unwanted unsolicited tapes. It is a very good (it also reminds me of the not good little movie, which I nonetheless rather liked for its one core idea, Revolution 666, in which a local Beatles fan extracts from Revolution Number 9, a code of some sort of create of a dead body a walking zombie who takes up the costume and horror of the walrus that John appears as in Magical Mystery Tour, and in the song I am the Walrus, it’s fun, this too). Finally, it also weaves in over that, the whole immediate blame frame that was put about the event, that there is Satanism afoot, and this is a technique used by Satanists to steal people’s souls, etc.,

a 0 44Finally, maybe a step too far, a bewegigungsapparat, to make it plausible, he claims there were telephone calls, and they were death threats, so, from here, the whole lore is regrounded in reality by being an extended variation on the most very common of acoustic terrors that seem to afflict people, still today, online, or by phone, death threats.

a 0 45Finally, the reason why fusing ambient scares with a filmic determination to emphasize the ambient bubble, as it were, in which the killings took place, is that, in Six degrees of Helter Skelter (2006) and other treatments in documentary of the story, it is repeatedly mentioned that the gunshots were not heard, or heard oddly, with no bearing on location; that the screams were heard, but, again, with no one able to tell where they were coming from because the canyons are in effect acoustic black holes or Bermuda triangles where acoustics sound out, but, then, have no bearing. Time and again, this idea has struck me as maybe the most impressively haunting aspect of the hills and canyons, that the acoustics removes one from the norms of acoustic expectations on earth, and one is caught in a strange echo chamber where you have no bearings as to where it comes from. It is a kind of dizzy, or lack of balance that the valley suffers, for which is accommodates murder. In my world, each black hole of acoustics would be a type of demon.

This then, finally, is pulled back into the hypnagogic space, by her hiding out in the bathroom, upset at others, too paranoid to even open the door for Abigail. Then she calls Roman and completely freaks out, basically, to him, rehearsing in its entirety the idea that they are trying to steal her baby, that is, whomever is the roving ambient encircling family, maybe even with Wyotek and Abigail’s help, she is out of it.

a 0 46But as she does this, it is as if the phone, the vessel of death threats, emits its acoustic power, to cause the bath to turn to blood. It really overflows

a 0 47there is in fact a screen wipe river of blood scene, as completes this as a kind of shower-bath scene, going back to The Shining,

a 0 48She sees, then, in the mirror, blood writing, it is RETLEH RETLEKS, which could echo on, I don’t know, one of the souls of the Egyptians, after death, but it is backmasked, that is the point.

a 0 49then it screams a warning to her, this is by no means as sensible as REdRUM spelled out straight as MURder (and one of the funny things about reading King’s novel, The Shining, is that it is repeated often, clearly with the idea that no one picked up what redrum meant, and did not realize it until, in shock, late in the story, it flips; this did not work this work, but I am ok with any bloody bath scene, too bad she was not in it.

a 0 50Then they get to the night of the killings, themselves, there is also woven in over it, an ambient spin, as noted. Again, in the actual event, the gang strolled right in. But, in this revised version, after Sharon has nightmare the actual, they barricade themselves, so the girls must try some psychological warfare on them, circling the house, ambiently, with an acoustic haunting, a creepy singing of a three little pigs song, which I didn’t know there was one, but which of course clues into PIG written on the door, and also again back to the White Album the Beatles song piggies (also to the aesthetic that the Beatles were getting ever deeper into, the pure folk song limerick like ditty). This, even though this movie outdoes others in showing the Manson girls as utterly spaced out obnoxious c*nts, I mean, really irritating.

a 0 51but this “terror” made me laugh, because it does feed into Sharon’s idea that she lives in a fairy tale, she is, in fact, still a child woman, but then one of the core images that spooked me in my own childhood was an image in a Childcraft book of the wolf coming down the chimney crawlspace, who knows, maybe my interest in crawlspaces as sites of horror started there

a 0 52that book also included some shots which terrified me as examples of what I now identify as lattice menacing shot, the still, menacing face, looking out over the image, the witch, a classic lattice view

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Then, finally, to have it that Tex gets it in the ambient space, he comes to the trailer, to look for them, he is lead there by them having left Manson playing on the tape deck there, as he swings down, then circles around, we get an inside out shot, which, to me, is quite provocative, and atmospheric, he is walking to the Far Place door, the cursed door, he has splat, in nightmare, been injured, but now is walking a path over the roof as it were of REM, to the far door, swinging round.

a 0 54and he meets his end way down at that far door, at the end of the property, Sharon taking the final head shot, and so by that protecting her property, and undoing the whole ambient spin of the haunting.

a 0 55so, for all that, ambient hauntings make the movie, give it is special quality, but a quality which to some might seem obtuse.

But, then, there is, in fact, the hypnagogic core. This is symbolized by a very nice chthulike roulette eight ball tarot deck Ouija board which predicts the future. It symbolizes Sharon’s brain, really, it is an excellent symbol.

a 0 56This amazing thing is, it is googlable, it is a transogram game from the 60s, Ka-bala

a 0 56The movie is quite clear about this, it is a toy found in the basement

a 0 57Here it is

a 0 58

The box

a 0 59

A close-up

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they make all sorts of green crap, from the time, I can collect this , the green slime is close

a 0 61

green ghosts

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A final detail of possible subscripted meaning here is that ka is a particular soul, the essential self, believed in by the Egyptians, and perhaps Bala is another, two together forming kabala, which, of course, this has nothing to do with, but Tate in the movie was reading a book about reincarnation, and theme is made use of the sew up the loose ends of philosophy at the end, so I would not put it past the movie having other occult references.

It is pretty funny, as a symbol of the central core, offcentered, caught in an in-between demon space, it speaks to the fact that she has mystic or occult beliefs, but they are also grounded in fairy tale beliefs, and as construed here as a kind of child-woman, which Hillary duff, former child star, would know of, and I think that it is that special intuition that made the movie work, she and Tate fusing, this is quite a perfect Strange Object, as well as the One Object that summarizes the whole movie. The fact that it is green, and part of a line of toys all of which made use of green, though they deferred from going to green miasmic ghosts in this one, it speaks to the green slime zone, meaning that we are in a zone where history can be rewritten, and that is just the way it is, it is haunted space, out over the ambient sea.

But it is also interesting that this Strange Object serves as a kind of clearinghouse for her anxiety, allowing for her to ask the game the kind of questions she has been asking her guests, upsetting them with all this talk. They play the game, with wine

a 0 63they form a group, at that couch, near that American flag, and, in effect, offer another visual premonition of the killing, thus the game plays the part of the killing chaos at the center of things.

a 0 64but, then, when they are called away to the door, Sharon looks away, and when asked if she will lead a long and healthy life, the game says no, Abigail and Jay mug a face at each other, don’t tell her that’s what came up. It is not unlike the moment of the drop of wine drop at the wedding in The deerhunter, a premonition that only we see, to give us the edge.

a 0 65then the game spins out ambiently, back into the house, there is a knock at the door

a 0 66Woytek goes to the door

a 0 67with a close up on No, Sharon will not lead a long and healthy life, she does not see this because she follows Woytek to the door

a 0 68we get the back of the head shot which equates her with the Ka bala, but says that this is all in her head

a 0 70she assumes the famous position, to be seen by Manson (but, again, in real life, this happened during the daytime in March, not as part of a concerted three night assault on the place, culminating in the killings, so it is an entirely different harassment scenario

a 0 71and by this shot, the black eight ball, with its eye, then supported by greenery, spins out to transfer back to Manson, seen as a blur.

a 0 72then he goes back ambiently, to the car, the family in it, he drops the latest tape on the ground, leaving it (Woytek later admits they have been finding them all over the grounds, so almost like an airlift leaflet drop in a previous war, another form of ambient voiced acoustic spinning around the place), like a negative libation, a promise. a threat

a 0 73it is a menacing act, I’ll be back, it says, it spells trouble (but, of course, all this is fictiona;). See Part 2.

The Helter Skelter Murders (1971) and depicting a nightmare on Cielo drive. Part 2.

Rev., Jul 21, 2019.

Note: this is a ”deep summer” piece, posted on the 50th anniversary of the death of the victims of Cielo drive, Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, Woytek Frykowski, Abigail Folger and Sharon Tate; as well as, next night, Rosemary and Leno LaBianca, August 9, 1969.

See Part 1, previous post.

Having gone through the preliminaries, The Helter Skelter Murders (1971) then surprises, about 45 minutes in, by switching to a meticulous reenactment of the Cielo drive killings. I will go through the separate scenarios to try to plumb or uncover in the structure or sequencing of them, why, why these murders had such an impact on the imagination of Los Angelenos at the time (news reporting pouring over details). The first to note is, when asked who he was, Tex said, I am the devil, here to do the devil’s work. Two things, he might be quoting something, but he clearly understood how this action was part of some larger scenario which was not related to good. The shot is a classic trope, which indicates, of course, topsy turvy, but it is worse, as it signifies the “flip” between vigilogogy and hypnagogy, it casts all events that happen thereafter into an emergency or crisis situation, in or after an accident or crime, as a trauma, I have written about the flip as a key psychological moment in movies like Paganini Horror, but here it is, introducing us to the killing sequence

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but, then, there is a more important structure to the killings that I can’t recall anyone having noticed before. I have mapped out, but mainly from evidence provided in many, many examples in movies, that nightmares usually come in a double eight formation, and then there is, sometimes, the third circle, which results in seeing through the darkness, to the truth shot, what I call ophthchthony. The double eight starts when one is lying in a nightmare-inducive state on the bed of the lattice, then, things get heavy, then break, you fall down the whoosh, it is the spiral staircase down-whoosh of a nightmare, whatever bogey is waiting for you at the bottom coming in close, fast. But, then, in a nightmare, you can’t take it, you bounce out. That is, the shock in the entoptic space in your eyes and your mind dreaming comes in so close that it causes you to startle or flinch while asleep, to wake up in shock, sometimes sitting up, sometimes simply opening your eyes in confusion. In a lot of lesser-informed movies, this is where things stop. But, in a real nightmare, and in better movies, there is something wrong with this waking up, the person is strangely not there, she is not sweating, there is no clear sign of trauma, in fact, when she hears a noise, she gets up and cooly investigates, the hope being that she will find out what caused this nightmare. But, then, after a gown prowl, usually showing her thigh gap by a light shining from behind her, as nightmares cut to the very essence of one’s being, and when this trope developed that was where essence was thought to pool, she comes to the discovery, but it turns out that it is even more intense than the nightmare, it doubles UP on the nightmare, and this time causes her to leap up, the ephialtic leap, thus causing her to bounce up out of hypnagogy back into vigilogogy, to wake up for real, and the signifier of this wake up is that she is covered in sweat, she is in a physical trauma state. Since last summer I have mapped out this scenario several times, the key to opening up being Roscher’s concept of the ephialtes, the leaper.

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but in special cases, when you wake up for real, you are still frozen, as it were, or in a state of sleep paralysis, and it is then that you come to the gaze through the darkness, the Ophthchthony, that signifies the truth, what you were looking for, what the dream and nightmare were trying to uncover for you all the time. In some movies I have found that it is only at the bottom of ophthchthony that one sees the truth, we are shown the “truth shot,” the key to unlocking the whole mystery. So, this is the structure, my thesis is, if a movie orchestrates a dream sequence or even a plot in this manner, by this structure, then it has visual wisdom, and a human being watching it, knowing intuitively and instinctively the truth of this structure, will respond to it much more intensely.

So the amazing thing is, the Manson Murders as they worked out, and then especially as they began to be reenacted on film, seem to have this nightmare structure. Thus, the running through the paces of the killing is not incidental, it is what gives to the murders, the scenario showing so many flashpoints at which if any of the victims would’ve done something different, or responded more effectively, they could have averted disaster, all of this greatly increasing the horrific poignancy of the killings. Let’s go through it.

So, the first sequence, the first “nightmare” if you will, is when Susan, I think, is asked by Tex to go see if there is anyone else in the house. In this version, she is shown as an avatar of the clock, time’s up, she says, she also is bespoken by griffins on the mantel, the protection of the house having been fatally compromised. So, with shifty eye, and, here, witchy manner, she goes.

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First is the infamous seeing of Abigail Folger at her bedroom door, Abigail, not surprised by a stranger in the house, roaming the halls, gives her the famous toodle-loo.

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this scene is made more of in other versions of the killing, where it works to display her elite effeteism. It could be argued that, one, Folger’s lack of worry at seeing a stranger at her bedroom door shows us how much partying they were doing, some of it no doubt on drugs (and a lot of drugs were found in the house, so much so that the police at first naturally thought it was a drug deal gone bad). Second, this little hiatus in the sequence, her toodle-loo, is state’s evidence one for those who want to blame Folger and Tate for their lack of security, their naievete, etc (how different the response of the crazy exercise lady when Alex gets into her house in Clockwork Orange). There is, along this seam of the story, a blaming, which always make people feel safer, it wouldn’t of happened to them, they would’ve been more careful, they say. Just as good sequences with agency work themselves through Bewegigungsapprats and also alibi formations, so, too, there is a third deflective membrane ringing, the blame frame, I call it, a sequence cannot take on mythic proportion without it.

This continues with a strange door shot entering into Tate’s room, an even more intrusive event. A small cameo on the wall indicates danger to the woman of the house, the door is just ajar

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the fact that Susan passes both a mirror and a work of African art speaks to her unreality, that is, her not being believed to be there, seriously, by any of them; but, then, also, her out of placeness, her strangeness, her threat, which none get, having stripped the house by partying and drugs of its basic protective agencies.

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Then she sees Tate talking to Sebring on the bed, a round star’s bed, in formal full wall drapes, speaking of trouble, fear, threat, none listened to.

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somewhere in here I have to mention that when Susan, I think, pops into the bathroom, to see what’s there, we see, there it is, a Crouching Venus.

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this one looks like a reproduction of the statue in Copenhagen harbor, so very possibly simply a tourist knickknack embodying a fond memory travelling, but in general a Crouching Venus as a trope represents the dark side of the female about to come into play, in the movie, where it is shown, and if that is not caught by the viewer, then the fact that it is right above the abyss of the toilet speaks volumes as to the fact that things are going down fast, we are in, that is, in horror at this easy surveillance stroll through the house, no one the wiser that death has arrived, the whoosh to nightmare. That is, this sequence itself, a stranger walking through one’s house, it is meant to give you the chills.

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then, that’s that, Susan goes back out to Tex and reports, then he says bring them out. Let me pause. This first nightmare, then, is simply the fact that Susan went down the hallways checking out who was there, she even said hi, they said hi back, again, this sequence is more chilling than scary, but it does speak to classic fears, being murdered in one’s bed, a home invasion, all that, then the bogey man showing up under the bed, or in the hall, but, worst, the fact that they had allowed all these apotropaic instincts of home sweet home life to atrophy and deplete, so that they thought nothing of seeing a total stranger in the hallway (how different from what might well be George Romero’s meditation on the problem, in Season of the Witch (1972), see my note). They, then, from this nightmare scenario, take on some of the culpability in their own destruction (in retrospect, and given the blaming nature of human nature in general, always requiring an easy answer, we love to automatically blame the victim; this, though, just a wrestling with the difficult question, indeed, how culpable of their demise are, in fact, victims?)

The second nightmare, then, begins when Folger, and then Sebring and Tate are brought out of the bedrooms, made to understand that they were in the middle of a robbery, and that this was a crime. It is unclear if they thought they were going to be killed at this point. But, then, and I don’t recall from Guinn if this is the sequence, but Tex takes some time to tie them all up back to back, triple, in front of the fire place.

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it seems that in the real house, more a country cottage than a classic mansion, as reported there was a beam running short of the ceiling, on which he could hang them up by the hands

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also Sharon, three

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it is unclear why this would be done. Maybe Tex was simply tieing them up until the robbery part of the night was over, then would come the murders; maybe he meant to kill them and leave them that way. In that regard, it would be more like a lynching (since the movie earlier indulged in the outrageous stereotype that black panther helter skelter would not look that different from blacks looting stores during riots, this scenario might have been construed by the director as a planned staging of the murders to signify purported Helter Skeltering blacks as exacting revenge, like to like, for lynching in the past). At the very least, it creates a “splat” spot where, hands tied, Abigail and Sharon in nightgowns, they hit bottom in terms of realizing, this is a nightmare, which they now want to awake from. So, the shock

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in this regard, their response to the nightmare realized would be to try to escape, to leap out of the problem. In this instance, Sebring gets loose, and makes a move, but this only forces Tex to take out his gun and let the others know, this is real, he shoots him, and so Sebring is out of it from that point on, the women now horrified that this really is a death scenario, that is, Tex, they now know, is a killer.

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I know that it is entirely effete of me, in a room where murders are to take place, to notice the furniture and paintings arranged in the room, but in this shot in this movie one sees just how odd this set was, there is a wall covering curtain in back, almost as if a stage set, perhaps that is another picture window out to the other side or back, but, then, weirdly, possibly bespeaking their subtenant posture, there are a few things that are just stacked up, unpositioned in the room, and this includes a painting leaning sideways on the floor. As I have worked out with regard to the police station in Romero’s The Crazies, a painting on the floor and showing sideways is not a good sign, it means chaos and collapse, worse if knocked off a wall. But, then, a sideways painting, what could that mean? Bizarrely, as if all but putting skin on a deep structure that is really there, what happens to Sebring means that when he has that second nightmare, by the nature of his response, he does not leap up into vigilogogy, waking up, he bounces out, but, for that, in this case, bouncing out means he is killed. In this regard, the sideways landscape painting means trouble is coming, and, in fact, trouble just got worse, things have gone sideways, with no good end, so this is an uncanny placement of property to bespeak the horror of what is happening up front on the stage.

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Thus, he bounces out, and his bounce out is signified as deadly, not bouncing to the ambient, but bouncing down to death, by a sideways landscape painting.

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then, since the next up is Folger, Tate is left alone in the hogtie, she stands, and in this shot we not only see her standing over now dead JS, but over Frykowski, who is sort of knocked out at the moment, this is an odd shot, perhaps signifying how she, the last to go, is also the only one who will be remembered being murdered there that night, she becomes by process of elimination the Hercules figure who goes back and forth from life and death, and in that mental uncertainty, seeing death, in the killing of others, fearing death, then having to fear death of her baby too, this second splat, then, it too has intense emotional content, it is all wrapped up in her physical predicament.

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and since the movie has indulged in figural object d’arts symbolism in terms of the Nefertiti and the Crouching Venus, as well as the African art, it is interesting that this tricephalic tieup is done under the gaze of a goddess of some sort

aa 88it is hard to say who this is, it is female, but with a mercurial aspect, perhaps this is Nemesis, dark committer of souls to death, maybe Nemesis has a function that compares her to the Valkyrie, she will decide who shall live and who shall die. She in any case is intercessional, she opens things up to the final conflict. But, the fact is, while she has, in statue, a few putti below her, in the scene passing in front of her below, she has a tricephalic binding, that echoes on Cerberus, guardian at the gates of hell, which really does reinforce Tex devil motif.

aa 89and Hercules famously was also one who could move between life and death, pass through the door, here guarded by Nefertiti, with Cerberus tamed by him, to allow passage.

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Sebring having bounced out of the nightmare splat, then failed, now we have a much more acted out escape attempt, both Folger and Frykowski try at pretty much the same point to scatter; the fact that they scatter, but, then, are still caught, adds unbearable pathos to the killing, more so that the messy execution of the whole plan exposes the killers as amateurs, this could’ve been avoided. But, here, Folger breaks loose, not quite under the lamp.

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well, let’s get Frykowksi out of the way, moviewise, he breaks out past the door of death, but is quickly shot

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it has to then be noted that it would appear that the open door through this whole thing represented the always available Luor that had to be passed between the nightmare and escaping from it, tempting them, offering aid to them; but, then, it is also true, neither who tried that escape got out, it was too easy to follow them (that is, if you seek escape, you have to make sure the path behind you is blocked up somehow). Here then is Frykowsky’s ephialtic leap, I picture him as just getting past the door, past Nefertiti, whom I now place as the guardian of the nightmare zone, the queen of hell, as it were, offering the possibility of saving the dead, harrowing them out, but also, delivering death when it comes, she is, then, in this context, where she is located, also an outward moving embodiment of the Hanged Woman

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but then, just as Frykowski gets out, he is shot, that ends

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This leaves Folger (two escape attempts in effect pluralize the nightmare scenario, the scattering also greatly ratchets up the nature of the bounces or leaps, there are so many opportunities for escape, that of course this makes the killings that much more horrible to think about).

But, now, the interesting thing, in this version, is that Folger gets most of the attention. It is not clear why, but, unlike in other versions, where she is just an also-ran, here she is a quite beautiful woman, who then is shown to have fought hard to escape, and, in fact, she fights so hard, and so much of it is detailed on screen, that she opens up to the scenario a different dream structure than the leap. First, she leaps for the phone, a questionable move, as if she could get a call out. But, as in Chthulu Manson (1992), moving from outside the lamp, to under the lamp, lets her let loose the intimacy of her true self, no more posing, but straight up fighting for one’s life. In this regard, in the prehistory of trope development, she is more or less the Fightback Girl, the correct physical profile, and, then, response, as my most common statement distinguishing between the Sacrificial Blonde and the Fightback Girl, is that the former has been on the pedestal for so long that she is spoiled and therefore affronted by the audacity of some loser to actually put his hands on her and it takes her too long to overcome disgust at that violation of her pride, so she gets it; whereas the Fightback Girl, a perfectly good-looking young woman, but not at the level that would Have attracted unqualified putting-on-pedestal pursuit, has a more realistic sense of what’s what, she knows to immediately go into action, even if embarrassed by the revealing of her intimacy in the effort. So, in this one, Folger is a prehistoric Fightback Girl, a good decade before the trope formally developed in horror (this is not, strictly speaking, of the genre, though).

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in this scenario, she is on the phone, to find it dead, this covers for Tex taking all that time to cut the wires, this is also a trope moment in any home invasion movie, but, here, the knocked over lamp means we are in chaos, message is not received.

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then Susan attacks, and we are cast down into another slipstream space in the zones of possibility in terms of bounces or leaps from out of a nightmare.

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all of this on the carpet, girl on girl, a catfight happens in the under the bed space of the lattice, that is, she is now back in a space not far from where she was when she made her fatal error with her casual toodle-lo (perhaps also echoed in her failed phonecall), but now, the lamp spelling chaos, she is in the fight of her life with a killer.

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then too the movie gets quite arty with it, showing her as if faltering before phone and knocked over picture or book, in a splat state

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rolling around in the glare zone of the under the bed, kind of already dead

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getting up

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being knocked under the side table and its curved legs, possibly symbolizing her figure, in distress

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the legs of the table could also remind us that Tate is watching this whole thing, hoping for a victory, so she can escape too, so, once again, a sequence in the killing filled with all sorts of painful longing and uncertainty and what ifs? (picture in the rear could refer to Bruce Lee Lore that circles about these events too)

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where is this? why is this so focused on, well, one reason is that somehow she does get free, and she, with her beauty, having grappled all over the floor, as if composes her own killer mode, she will survive,

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but where is this? dreamwise, here

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thus far, in my treatment of escapes from nightmare, I have focused on successful leaps back to vigilogogy, and then unsuccessful bounces into ambient spaces, the black out or the white out. But in my construct of the Night Mirror, which I found to exist in Suspiria, I also mapped out a scenario whereby repeated interrupting influence of the High Light, that is, the light of insomnia, a deep rich, active sleep was formed in compensation for lost sleep earlier in the night which spun around into the under the bed space, to exhibit it grappling to come back to consciousness and escape. And it seems to me that this scenario, in this rendition, is still dwelling on the what ifs? of the scenario, the chances of escapes missed, the momentary victories that might’ve worked, and it chose to focus all those on Folger, therefore Folger bounces UP not out, she does not leap out, she bounces UP, and for that ends up in the Under the Bed state, the good news being that in movies like the Sandman (2006) this is a state that one can grapple through to break back out into escape and consciousness. But, as is, in the under the bed space, she is fighting in the post-nightmare, Night Mirror space, thus the fallen lamp equals the presence of the High Light by way of an ambient light source shining horizontally over to her, possibly to, even as if devastated, offer her an out, thus the table represents effigies of whom she is fighting for, her, of course, but also Tate and her baby, then, there is a fight in that space, and, finally, she does in fact leap up, and that is that look, the moment of breaking out of that nightmare zone, up into hope

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it is a surprising moment, and, given the outcome, almost impossible to bear, that she almost made it. This look is not seeing through the darkness to the truth, this is seeing a way out (ophthekbasis), from inside the belly of the beast, and as I have staged it here it occurs after one has bounced into the under the bed, then had to fight through that, to then come up in the area of the entoptic, to more or less, under the aegis of the Hanged Woman, come back to consciousness.

And, indeed, next shot, picking up where I left off above, she engages with Nefertiti, back at the front door, still open, now she takes the chance

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but, as mentioned previously, she is wounded, her chances are not great, this is signified by her depletion, half of her now gone to the mirror, even the power given her by Nefertiti halved by a reflection of her turning her back on her.

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but she’s out

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no episode in the killing quite showed the messy incompetence of the killers than Folger’s escape. In reality, she simply ran out the door, then, was pretty quickly caught on the front lawn, then, to make sure she got her this time, and killed her, Patricia, I think, delivered the great number of blows, not out of savagery, though that too, but because she was frustrated that this woman got away and now had to be taken care of once and for all, so you keep stabbing until you were absolutely certain she was dead. Here, however, they put her under a tree, further down in the zone between in the yard, perhaps it is the tree of life.

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but then she is caught (they mistake the assailant here, it was not Tex), under a tree

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but, now, the movie gets strange again. One of the most famous and heart wrenching moments, almost un-bearable to the average listener, or viewer, is that at one point Patricia wasn’t sure if she had done it, that is, killed her, so she paused, to listen to Folger, and Folger said, I’m dead already. This quote turned the moment of her death into a terrible hiatus that humans in general find it hard to imagine, and often repress imagining it as soon as they do, the moment of death, the moment when, in shock, you realize you are dead; but then, of course, also, a moment, so often conjectured upon in horror, what in fact do you see immediately after death? is there life after death? do you have any cognition as you will still be able to respond to whatever you see immediately after death, either to be happy that there is, in fact, a heaven, or to in despair, realizing, nope, there is nothing there, ten nine eight seven six five four three two one, you just went offline forever, which I can only imagine will be a real shock? But, here, this telling dwells for a bit on this horrible moment, Folger knows she is dead, so commits herself to it, and she does this by the well worked trope of looking up into the entopty of the branches of trees.

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the movie dwells there, as if to contemplate or guess what she is seeing, is she seeing a path to the afterlife through the arrangement of the branches? is she passing through the entoptic, to get there? is this the way to get there? it is a quandry.

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where is this, dreamwise? I have positioned a true kind of vision, a clairvoyant vision of truth, got as a kind of reward after having got through terrible nightmare, ophthchthony, seeing through the darkness to truth. Maybe this

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the idea here is that having bounced out of the under the bed fight, and survived, she gave us the hopeful looking up shot, fixated on getting out, the mind set shot, the I will escape shot (ophthekbasis), it is surprising to see that sort of shot in any scenario of the killing, most of the time fixated on the savage violence; but now she sought escape, once again, as did Frykowksi, she passes the Nefertiti, intralocutor at the door to the temple of death, she gets out there, into the in-between, the Luor, but, then, under a tree, she is caught and finally killed, uttering her remark of resignation. But, here, that moment is depicted as an example of visionary hypnagogy almost as magic as ophthchthony, but seeing through to death. This would be a moment that straddles the edge, so a nexus is created in the Luor when she is caught and in her last view of life, the entopic trees, she also is, in a way, also experiencing her first moment of death, she sees in her last moment of life what it is like after life, the mystic moment. This is Thanatopsis, seeing one’s own death (I previously encountered this, none too well done, in Bridey Murphy; the word comes from a poem by William Cullen Bryant, but I use it in a more technical way). It is a moment of enduring interest to human beings, who will ever not know the truth of it. At present, in this scenario I argue that you can only get to it by way of a second bounce out into the under the bed space, then to escape that, and, when, in the third loop, you are rendered as if in sleep paralysis by the fact that you are fatally injured, and laid out, then, then you can see through to death, and that is what that is. For emphasis graphically, since I place ophthchthony down the spine of the life force in the center of my graphic system, I will declare the side edge of the graph to also, sometimes, be the flight to death, and trace this view down to death on this line, so, thanatopsis

Finally, then, still ANOTHER arty shot focused on Folger, we see here then, AFTER that moment, now truly physically dead. She is depicted almost as bodies are in crime scenes, as if taken apart, as if scratched away at, rendered waxy and unreal, like Lenin at his tomb, this effect of paralysis or statuelikeness, then, alone, having made her into a raggedy ann doll, a thing, convincing us of her death, she gets the shot here, this far below REM dream.

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but we are STILL not done with Folger, there is another angle on it, and this one, oddly, seems to focus on her neck, to the extent that it makes it look like it is broken, or to imply that she was also choked to death (which would not be accurate).

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The issue here is that the movie seems to be dealing with occult theory, in romanticizing on the moment of death by way of Folger. The occult theory would be, and my graph more or less maps it out, that, if you are choked to death, you can then look over the fence, as it were, at death, then see that, then, somehow, be revived, to return, for you to have that knowledge; or, if you want to jump over the fence, do so. This was the theory behind asphyxiophilia, which Aubrey Trail in trial last month practiced right here in Nebraska, it was also the mechanism by which Unity Mitford and Hitler made a pact to by suicide primed by their rituals of asphyxiophilia, which she learned from count Almasy, that they too would experience a liebestod and find each other thereby in the afterlife. It was also shown in the movie, The dark Song (2016), that when the guru finds out that she has lied about her motivation in the rite, he has to put her into a bathtub, then drown her, I mean, really drown her, then pull her out, then do CPR on her, to revive her, and, it is implied, by experiencing real death, then coming back, she has been purified to a new life, and can continue. It is not clear to me why this theme is so active in the past year in my viewing, or in movies, but it is, and here it is in an old movie about the Manson Murders, the cinematic suggestion that it was through the death of Folger more than Tate that we in horror were able to face up to the awfulness of the last moment of life and the first moment of death).

Folger becomes the safely displaced person upon which audience fear and anxiety about these moments can be projected, because, it is assumed, it would be unbearable for these moments to be covered with Sharon. Indeed, for a time, in the culture, shots of Tate dead became all but ob-scene, in the sense of literally being beyond being seen, unseeable, embargo’d from sight, forbidden. This movie makes the radical decision to in fact show NONE of Tate’s murder, it simply draws away, and reminds us as if in a mist of memory over the killing field, all that we have lost of this perfect beauty (Quentin Tarrantino in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), which at some point I will get to, follows in this iconoclastic tradition when it comes to Tate by actually suggesting a what if? History in which she was not killed; The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019), with Hilary duff, does the same thing).

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there is a glimpse at the end, but discrete

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then they too all walk out, all to at some point get theirs, by the order of Nefertiti.

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then it is at this point, as noted above, that Susan comes back to use Tate’s blood to write the witchy thing to see if that would cause the world to read the motive of the killing correctly, but, of course, it only freaked the world out, and got Manson caught, inferring as it does an overarching occult theory that only his mind could’ve concocted. In this context, however, having explored the murders, seen everyone else murdered, but then our eyes are averted by Tate, this now is what we get of the Tate murder, after she is gone, and the blood spattered on her belly suggests her final wish that the baby be cut out of her, to survive, while she dies, it also, as mentioned, gives to her blood a kind of supernatural power, which might let the child live on in spirit, it is a blood libel death, not yet fully worked out.

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but then the other things is, why, exactly, did the hippies call police pigs?

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On a purely verbal pingpong level, the opposite of hippies was piggies, especially in the White Album world of the last two years of the 60s (in fact, the “real” 80s in terms of counter culture turn away from civil rights). Then, police starts with p so pippies, what is closest to that, in terms of a real word, pigs. So, a symbolic utterance of word play, in the glass onion pingpong parlor. It is also true that, as noted in the documentary, the man who killed he 60s (1989), that pig was a Black Panther term for cops, specifically used by Manson to implicate them. But at the same time there was at the time the movie Pigs (1972), and this built up on the lore of pigs that they would eat anything, depending on whether they liked it or not, they would even eat humans, thus acted a sort of surrogate cannibals. This makes of them, and one thinks of the Thesmorphia festival in ancient Greece too, where woman sat in a pit with a pig to symbolize their descent into death, because I guess pigs had that power, but it also makes of them Valkyrie, like Nemesis, that is, they choose who is to live and who is to die, just by their behavior in duress in a riot, police do, so the pigs designation seems to attack the arbitrariness of police power, but here it closes the door of the temple of death, to tell us that it is over, everyone is dead, done.

All in all, then, while the first part of the movie is a mess, the reenactment, though not stylistically accurate, has many moments of psychological, or at least hypnagogic accuracy, capturing the drama, terror and nightmare of the sequence of events as they unfolded around these people. While it is curious that this movie used a strange film noir set for things, the management of symbolism and trope is quite good. It is also interesting that they forego use of one of the most classic tropes of the scenes of, for example, the American flag, to signal the event as an allegory of what America is, on that theme later (well, in fact, the backwardsly got it right, because according to Guinn the American flag was by no means draped out on the couch when Frykowski slept on the couch, or when the murders took place, it only got that after the shooting when, later that very night, Manson drove into the site to check it out to make sure it was properly stage set for maximum terror, and HE cynically put it there, to by contrast that it seems every media outlet and movie ever since has fallen for, to make the killing all about the destruction of American culture). For that, I have devoted a long essay to the dream structure of The Helter Skelter Murders (1971), even though in the watching of it it’s not such a great movie.

The Helter Skelter Murders (1971) and depicting a nightmare on Cielo drive. Part 1 of 2.

Rev., Jul 21, 2019.

Note: this is a ”deep summer” piece, posted on the 50th anniversary of the death of the victims of Cielo drive, Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, Woytek Frykowski, Abigail Folger and Sharon Tate; as well as, next night, Rosemary and Leno LaBianca, August 9-10, 1969.

Movies about the Manson murders offer yet another opportunity to differentiate between the ways in which various directors depict both the life of Charles Manson, and the murders of August 9, 1969, which was the culminating event of his failed effort to spark the helter skelter race war. One wonders, why, why did this murder attract such attention? The obvious reason given, most of the time, is that Sharon Tate was among those murdered, and, since she was a movie star, and we are a movie star culture, that caused everyone to be extra-horrified, because it is way worse when a movie star gets killed, as opposed to just an anonymous person. But, for me, that is too pro forma, it does not say enough. It strikes me, otherwise why would one director after another take a shot at trying to reenact the murders, that it was something, or everything, about the pace, shape, staging, sequence, management, orchestration and, finally, with Manson’s involvement, selling of the murders that made them so horrifying. On this point, it is also true that since that point, there have been many other murders of equal or worse proportion, but which received less attention. Moreover, it is clear by now that the cops misread the savagery of the murder as an attempt at terrorism, as sadism, when, in fact, as shown in a few of the movies, the reason the killers had to stab the victims so many times is that the whole thing was a messy clusterf*ck in which they repeatedly did not do enough to kill their victims, so they kept getting away, so they kept on having to go after them again, so that’s why when at last they got them down, they stabbed them a lot to make sure that that was that (this fact is acknowledged in the movie studied here, also in the fact that reporting back to Manson, the event was described by Tex as “messy,” so Manson went back afterwards to check it out). Still, the murder was sold as excess savagery, as terrorism, and it said also to have terrorized the LA elite community into finally taking security seriously, and one has to assume (without any research evidence) that the reason they terrified was not only the fact of them but details of the killings as reported upon in the papers or news, which created a whole cascade of fear flashpoint moments, culminating in terror. But it was the killers incompetence as non-killers, as much as their drugged out savagery that resulted in the massacre look of the killings. But, then, do movies show that? One does, I think, and it is I think a very strange, but strangely good movie, for showing several things of the murder sequence that almost in thinking of it seem like a dream, and this is The Helter Skelter Murders (1971).

The whole first half of the movie is nothing by time-filler, wobbling in flashbacks out of the courtroom, with the intent on focusing on the depravity of countercultural kids in today’s world. Unfortunately, it is true, while Woodstock was held exactly one week after the Manson murders, its influence on the culture was already over, it turned out to be the Gotterdammerung, the twilight gathering of the gods, for a culture that had already ended, and, in the eyes of the general public, had definitely come to an end the week before on Cielo drive, forever after that branding hippies as evil, leading to, in my studies, the evil hippie trope which was such a source of interesting characterization in the 1970s. Early on, there is an introduction to the Manson girls, but not as publicized, but as how they have ended up, ghosts, sleeping it off, high behind locked bars, in control now, that culture over, this, with the sleeper, bars, and imprisonment motifs, plays like a glass onion symbolic level dream, they are fading into dreams in our memories already.

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and to signify this, this apotropaic, everything-is-under-control sequence, to reassure the viewer, we end up with a glancing shot of supine Manson, making shadowplay of puppets and, presumably, people who were putty in his hands, in the culture that has now been brought to justice.

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but, then, somewhat confusingly, the movie lapses into views of the Spahn Ranch, and they appear to be reveries, that is, fixated on motifs or schema, then spread out in an entoptic way, to fill the screen with a calming pervasive image of ruralness, or country boy-ism, this view for example, what does it have to do with CM?

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scenes of hippie life at Spahn ranch are also bucolic and idyllic

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but then, a witness steps up, and dissolving from her, making her, on the stand, the lattice figure, who will as caretaker as it were take you down into it, we shift back to later the same day where a concert is being held at the ranch, and she describes this as a descent into a drug fueled orgy of random sex.

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this entails everyone getting naked, with, while male nudity is incidental, female nudity is, automatically, ipso facto, even if this is literally the one millionth and one millionth and one boobs you have seen in your mediated life, each new boob is a new beginning, a new stripping bare, a new blank slate, the original breast of a new world, in this case, the shocking revelation that will shake up the sense of moral order in 1969, unbusenhaltered helter skelter chests, bursting out free

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perhaps inadvertently, or it was just dumb luck, the water hole seems to have formed in a previously forested locale, so there are trees in it, that have died in being in it, but leaves them to be climbed by naked men whose weight bends them, even as they speak to the fact that, in a world of water holes filled with naked men and women cavorting like children, it is as if the flood time is upon us, decadence is everywhere, the antediluvian sinners will all be washed away

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this focus on sex leads to an explication in court of Manson’s sexual philosophy, which is all but Mormon, so sexist is it in the extreme; but what it means is, if one of the guys wants one of the girls, it’s her job to say yes, it is a world of easy sex, because the women have given their power of discretion to Manson, and as a result they have only one answer for any overture of sex made to them in the context of what they have already, to join, said yes, it is always yes (unless it is no, but it is Manson’s no).

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Thus, as if in an overture, the movie has very stiffly, quite oddly, set up the basic premise of its moral universe, the Family opened up to sexual depravity, in which all the Manson girls went crazy. And yet that world is shown in a titillating style almost in the manner of a symbolic reverie of ease and light in a lovely rural culture, a pastoral idyll, a dream, in short, so, contradictory feelings between text and screen (all of this par for the course in straight exploitation films warning of dangers going back to Reifer Madness).

But, then, there is the weirdest ‘dream sequence” in the movie. A Hollywood gossip column testifies as to the nature of the career of Sharon Tate. Now, in actual fact, Tate was a very physical actress, and in Thirteen Chairs and Fearless Vampire Killers, had no problem showing a little skin; she also went most of the absurd Make Waves in a bikini, looking fantastically statuesque, but then occasionally having to be nude in bed with, ew, Tony Curtis, with, I think, again, a few glimpses. That is, Sharon Tate was entirely a buy-in to the sexy sexual revolution movie that was so popular at the time. She was not at all a perfect girl. But, here, we get the idea that she did some modelling. Note that the photographer has crawled up onto a weird rococo group statue with echoes on Versailles, but also The Haunting, and, then, too, it is an elaborate Crouching Venus statue, meaning that the dark woman is present. The implication might also be, in keeping with the nature of horror since Blow Up, that we are seeing statuesque nudity

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because we cannot see literally her statuesque nuditybut, then, after a while, her struggle ended, she became the belle of the ball, the next thing, the new It girl of 1969, how to depict that? the director brainstormed, and this is what he came up with. She is a fantasy figure, so, in this sequence, her triumph, as it were, in a Roman sense, she is going to be all done up in the same way that Audrey Hepburn was all done up in those movies in the 50s like Funny Face, for her, a new discovery, to suddenly emerge as the new model for beauty in the age. Then, in addition to that, just as a moment of excitement like that was, in, for example, the Wizard of Oz (1939) or The Picture of dorian Gray (1945), evoked by a sudden shift on screen from black and white to color, so to here, way, way after the time when this sort of thing had any mediated power to impress, we shift to color for this triumph scene. Finally, back to Audrey Hepburn, just like Eliza Doolittle overcame her everydayness by being the belle of the ball, so is now Sharon Tate going to be the belle of the ball, so the scene of her arriving, being introduced, dancing, every eye in the room on her, it has a long movie heritage, but this is strictly a copycat scene from the ballroom adventure of My Fair Lady (1964). Finally, to add to all this, she starts her scene by a crowd stirring at the bottom of the stair, they begin to blush into color, to evoke their sexual idealistic excitement at the new goddess of beauty of the moment, the press crowds in

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and there she is, Eliza doolittle, I’m sorry, Sharon Tate, the new ingénue of right now.

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in profile

aa 18the classic portrait shot, as if posing for Gainsborough (it has to be said, Hollywood has done a very poor job at finding another Sharon Tate to play Sharon State who captures the special allure of Sharon Tate, this actress is quite pretty, but not “big enough,” that is, statuesque enough by far, to play Sharon Tate; dreamwise, this particular shot is a variant of what I call a lattice shot, it means that everything on screen henceforth is inside her head, though this backs off to assign her the psychopomp role as the caretaker, she who stands over the spiral stair to nightmare, gazing in).

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then, all eyes on her

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finding true love, looking her most luscious eyes (this actress seems to do best at this range, in two poses, right and left, the eyes out)

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so, as this movie makes clear, it thinks that the reason why everyone is crazy over the fact that Sharon Tate got killed is that she is the new Audrey Hepburn, she is the princess of the moment in princess culture, the It girl, the belle of the ball, the one who captures the attention of everyone right now, the highlight of this social season, the one who finds true love at the ball on a special night, she is all those princess culture tropes all wrapped up into one, and this is to be contrasted with those skanky, smelly, dirty, fuckanyone whores who are what womanhood looks like in hippie culture. There is no doubt about it, this dream sequence, which is entirely lattice-oriented, with strong ambient spin in the form of the all eyes on her trope, is quite politically conservative, but, after all, Valley of the dolls (1967) came out of the same swamp.

But, I also want to point out that horror movies even then were turning away from these sequences, and harvesting a darker undercurrent. In her descent on the stairs she is profiled by a nude

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at the top of the stairs, this is the Statement painting of the house, since it seems to be an impressionist painting of a nude figure dropping either a robe or a cover from her, to display herself either to an artist who wants to paint her, or a client who wants to fuck her, this must classify tropewise as a Woman at the Fountain painting, indicating, just as they do in Stormswept (1993), for example, that this is a house where sex is important, it is an erotic environment, she is somehow being used, but, then, moreover, they are in trouble too because a Woman at the Fountain painting as a trope also speaks to the presence of a dark side female, a female who will use her wiles to get her way. This second profile shot is so odd because the director obviously doesn’t know the rules of a triumph at the ball sequence

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this sort of profile is more often reserved for a gown prowl of a woman in a haunted house, the fact that the bare legs of the woman in the painting now profile her from behind, as if pushing her on, indicates that she is haunted, almost in the manner of the bride of Frankenstein, it reminds me, indeed, of the overturning of the belle at the ball sequence in Frankenstein the True Story (1973), in which Frankenstein tears off the female monster’s head

aa 20But, for all this, it is clear that this movie version of the Manson murders does in fact place Tate in the position of being the triumphant symbol of the culture of formal beauty, opposed to all things stinking and fucking in the informal or informe’ hippie universe.

This split-culture critique is reinforced by a Black Panther Helter Skelter sequence, in which the movie tries to imagine what that would look like. Apparently, the movie had trouble imagining what that would look like because all they could come up with for what black men might come up with to launch a revolution is for them, if armed, to loot a grocery store of all its tires, like they were in the middle of the Newark riots, this reference to the riots to underhandedly signify that the reason whites should be afraid of a Helter Skelter race war was shown to them all too clearly in the race riots in the previous years before 1969, but this is comical, in its absurd racism.

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they also do a home invasion, with an air of a creepy crawl about it, to attack and kill a helpless white woman sitting safely inside all the formal apotropaia of a stiff and clean domestic style of the 60s I call Jackie Style, which by 1968 at least was beginning to sour, and to be demonized. (I argue that Bogdanovich’s Targets (1968) was the first place the style was demonized on film). But, here, the good woman sits in her beautiful little cell, blessed by the Virgin Mary, and they desecrate her pretty little world. This is also a reverie world, that is, a construction entirely of schema, at the level of the symbolic, in the glass onion second level of hypnagogy, but, topographically, more in the Utrillo Town part of it, an Utrillo town interior. There is, however, a curious insert, interrupting the style. Tall rhododendrons are there, to signify a warning that trouble is out there, the curtain is pulled full across the wall to signify trouble is out there too, the woman has in her choice of art all but reverted from art to the prototype space of religious icon for a mod virgin mary to protect her, but, then, there seems to be a big hunk of wood on the coffee table

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I guess what this is is a Strange Object insertion by a director who at least knew whereof in terms of what the symbols of the Jackie Interior looked like, and what the tropes served, so he had to have a houseplant but one specifically directed at the Helter Skelter fear that Manson was hoping to impute into others, the specific fears not that only was one going to be murdered in one’s bed, but that, if you were white, then black people were going to be murdering you in your bed, so he dreamt up this idea of having a rough hewn piece of wood as a tabletop sculpture.

aa 23but for that too, and in conjunction with the power of the Virgin Mary lording her love over her living room, the Jackie goddess of Jackie style, there is a deeper meaning. A palladium in old Greece was a specific statue that was held in trust in a secret place in the city and because it was of great age, carved of wood, possibly even a pareidola fallen from heaven, an acheiropoetoi, it had magic talismanic power, because it had all that that palladium came to be identified with the life of the city. If it was safe, the city was safe, if it was taken, the city was taken. This wooden sculpture seems to serve this purpose here, so specifically does it speak to her fear, as she illustrates, of Black Panthers murdering her, which they do. But, then, this theme is reinforced or signified by the fact that, they do not steal the hunk of wood, they steal her bird, clearly her prized possession, the very essence of her household, and so she dies when it goes. It is almost comical if it were not so outrageously schema-level racist

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all that, all this strange photoplay depiction of the fears that Manson culture, as the evil outcome of hippie culture, then too Helter Skelter, then, finally, about a half way through, having settled us into a glass onion level symbolic adjunct dreamspace where everything is a reverie and a dream symbol, signifying the end of the world, so in his silhouette at last at mid-movie Manson comes, to be bogey man over all our fears.

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All of this up to now comes off as the weird sort of deploring that used to be par for exploitation movies about the evils of pot or whatever. It has been a photo play, but pretty much a dialogless exempla play, a morality play, with four or five scenarios of the evils unleashed by the hippie culture that lead to Manson.

But, now, the movie surprises one. After having dawdled in one genre, the moral documentary, for a time, it now switches over into a meticulous, carefully staged, quite good reenactment of the murders on Cielo drive, which I liked a lot, and for which, in spite of the idiocies of the preceding, earned the movie two and a half stars. But the most important thing here is that, having set things up in a reverie, that is, a glass onion adjunct symbolic reverie, tending toward the ambient, it also stages the murders in pretty much the same place. By a flip of the gap between not having been there and wanting to imagine what it was like, this then folded over on the only thing comparable in the mind to the imagination trying to imagine, that, dreams, it dreams us a not bad, if, again, strangely staged, reenactment of the killing.

The movie transitions with Tex and the participating girls coming up from the sewer of Hollywood Boulevard, though I don’t think that would be their route, Spahn Ranch to Cielo, but to show that it is a corrupt world.

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the crows of which come to roost on Cielo drive

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in fact, in a scene not shown in this version, but focused on as a key link in the plot, at one point on March 23, Manson came back to Terry Melcher’s house to inquire once again if there was any progress with his record deal. But Melcher had already distanced himself from Manson, and had sold 10050 Cielo to Rudy Altobelli, who then rented it to Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. But Manson came by looking for Terry, and while shushed away by Altobelli, depending on who’s telling the story, Manson saw Tate, he is always depicted wowing his eyes witchy at her, while she saw him, scared, Guinn says next day on the plane to Rome she inquired if that “creepy little man” was any trouble, and so very quickly in frustration and rage when Manson got the final turn-down from Melcher, his rage took form. One, he would kill Melcher in revenge; but, that was not enough, he would terrorize the whole community which supported Melcher; but, then, somehow, that rage would then turn a second time on that community by inciting a race war in which he could then sit back and watch the crazy blacks swarm up into the community that rejected him, killing them all. He needed a symbol, so since he had sought often, longed for an invite to Cielo from Melcher, but never got one, that house, not wherever Melcher was now, was a symbol to Manson of the closed door against him, THAT HOUSE was THE house that closed its door to him; moreover, he knew, also from rejection, that THAT HOUSE was a big party house, that all the mighty gods of the world he wanted to conquer were partying in THAT HOUSE, but he remembered that he was often very carefully not invited to a party in THAT HOUSE, therefore, he would symbolically attack that house, whomever was in it. But, then, last card played, he knew from the failure of the Hinman murder to attract any attention to his scenario of a race war, he knew he needed a big star, so if Sharon Tate, for god’s sake, was there, all the better, she is the cherry on top, to peak out his captivated obsession with Cielo drive as the symbolic Olympus from which he had been hurled (him to live in Tartarus, that is, a special place for almost-gods specifically tossed out of heaven by god). It was, then, important, in the telling, that a director come up with a way to portray in a dream form 10050 Cielo drive as that sort of place, as a valhalla, as a heaven, as a place of the gods, to be destroyed, and, in my view, this movie did a pretty swell version of it, as follows.

In this treatment, I will try to capture the dream structure of the reenactment, on the idea that it is by visual wisdom, that is, a visualization that people recognize as real, because they can relate to it as creatures with eyes and dreams in their head, so it digs deeper in, to affect them, even if on the surface or in the production values there are some inaccuracies. Even those, however, are of interest here. First thing, exactly according to trope, which settles the business down into well worn paths of horror, we get the lights on the road trope, heading out into the dark night in America, like a secret American flag.

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this arrival scene goes on for a while, to build up tension, to lead us in. When a scene plays with the trees, it is an entopic hypnagogic effect, the first effect that attempts to put you to sleep, and if it works, then you are in a receptive state. But, this is not the treetop shine trope, or the split the wilderness in half on the road seen aerially trope, this is the underneath the trees trope. This means that the road is under the trees, and is moving into a dark forest, for it.

aa 29Hypnagogically, then, this comes from below the trees, so I place it as a life force eruption up from below, unsure of where now to gaze with tension and sick expectation on the trees, as if digging them up, this works with a kind of visual gravity on the heart

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They come up to a remote place, a drive

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then the director gives Tex a good deal of time to climb over fences and up poles in the brush to cut the wires to the house, to open up the gated wilderness beyond. These are all estranging devices, but situate the house off away from civilization in the Black Forest, indeed

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that the movie takes time, not to just check off these steps in impatience to get to the main event, but dwells on the sticky nature of this first aparchestrai of the sacrifice, also the breaking of the magic circle, this adds some cult gravity to the proceedings, Tex is acting sacrificially, even if he does not know it (this sequence is nicely echoed in the documentary, Six degrees of Helter Skelter (2008)). A hand on the tree is a pretty nice darn shot, and a good indication of his conquest of the natural protections, becoming by this act not just a home invader but an interloper on someone else’s sacred ground.

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finally, they come up and see the gates in the distance, these two I place at the edge of the Black Forest, leading over the edge into the symbolic

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this shot is used in several filmic tellings, but only here, if I recall, is the gate the third thing come to, it gives the gate a more magical quality, as a site of a deeper, more intense protection, a not quite at the house protection, but a property, or world protection, an apogyreus, as Faraone has it, at the gate of the town, their heads then iconic, approaching it.

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but now there is a complication. They can see Garretson’s guest house, the garage door is open. The young man to be shot comes out, in his car.

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Tex, still deep in the entoptic, worries of a detail, that this kid will see the downed wire, and honk attention at them, making them go away. So, this accidental victim is treated as if a sentry, which must be got out of the way.

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it is very strangely shot, as if from the young man’s (Steven Parent’s) viewpoint. He freezes, in the car, he worries, something is there, in this shot he is thinking, should I look? should I acknowledge I see them? They are conjure figures, in his periphery, his glasses indicate, I can still just go on my way and pretend to ignore them.

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but then the scene, with Tex standing as if quietly, waiting for him to make his fateful decision, we get the close up of the eye, signifying the deer in the headlights eye; but also the eye of a psychological experience, of an “it’s on” life event, the Eye of Wadjet, alive, in the moment, alert to danger, blitzed, drugged, this brings the entire movie into the whoosh of the hypnagogic, for sure.

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then Tex answers back with the cold dead eye of the world, looking down the barrel of a gun, this aggressive eye replaces and overwhelms the other eye, it pulls up out of it a nightmare form, a bullet, and death, hypnagogically, this is the nightmare of the terrible moment taking over the norm of life

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but the most interesting thing is that when it is shot, the screen whites out

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no, really, whites out

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what is going on? Tex has already taken his ground, inside the sacred circle of the property, he has broken through a few layers of protection, but, now, from the waking world, the world concerned with other things, living daily life, an intruder happens by. But when he drives out, he is stopped, and when he is stopped he freezes, he has deer in the Headlights Eyes, frozen in indecision before horror, unable to move, in that state, which is hypnagogic, but headed down, or rather, looking down the core shaft of elan, seeing if it is active, or for him dying, he sees peripherally Tex. Tex is now in his mind a Conjure Figure, the fear is that if I turn my head this illusionary presence will become real, and will bring down his nightmare upon me. That, then, alas, is the mistake he makes, Tex, with a gun, fires, that is the equivalent of a drop down to the splat of nightmare, bouncing out, and the Looking down the Barrel shot is literally him looking down the depth of the spiral, to death (not that much different than spiral staircase shots in movies); this then shocks him, face to barrel, Tex fires, it then shoots up out of the nightmare depths, into his tentative entoptic space, causing him to be killed, and in the blast bounced out in the Ophthon, or white out space, where the mind dies in disbelief at the reality of the thing, so to speak.

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This has the psychological-momentum effect of instantaneously breaking down any remaining barriers, and letting them flood in; so things accelerate and we are at the house very quickly after that, everything having been cleared for them, and Tex is opening the window, unlocked, as it might’ve been in those days.

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while the opening of the window and getting into the house is strictly routine, the house they are in is not at all like the real house at 10050 Cielo drive. That was a ranch style with all the rooms lined up against each other facing the common front of the house by the porch. This house has a square quality, with sides of the house, then a front and back, then when he comes through, he has to come forward through a hallway to open the door for them. The door, in this mythic version, as doors do have intercessionary power, this IS a big moment, they are in, the door is very important here, for a few reasons. He goes to it, bypassing an interesting character

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then he opens it, violating the force field of that house, held down by Nefertiti. This Nefertiti is NOT a detail in the reality of the house, they were all casual, this is formal film noir symbolism, but it serves a major purpose in characterizing the type of space they have invaded (Since Nefertiti shows up in the apartment of the suicide, Simone, in Polanski’s The Tenant (1976), a movie where I sense an undercurrent of the director brooding upon his life with Tate, it is possible that Nefertiti as an object or symbol had life in their life together. It was a thing with men of that generation to maintain marriages with a constant flow of flattery, Nefertiti was the model for any woman even remotely statuesque, it is possible Nefertiti was part of their relationship culture as well. Nefertiti has a bit of a personal connection with me on this level because my dad once kept asking me if I could get an image of Nefertiti, apparently he wanted a local artist to draw a Nefertiti version of his second wife, Barbara, it was part, that is, of the flattery of the household in a generation of men who felt that keeping the wife happy and flattered was the key to marriage. I never got him, in that pre-internet age, the image, but I saw it in a list of effects left from her upon her death in 2014 and regret not asking to keep it, though it would’ve been a weird ask).

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though we have skipped several of the stages of apotropaic statuary that guarded a Greek house, for example, as outlined by Faraone, there is in his mapping out of it, just in on the hall table, or in the back of the foyer, beyond the apotropylonic door guardians, which would literally be right at the door, a Hecatean statue, which wards off evil in three directions from it looking out at the door. This type of statue is placed here in front of a mirror, and then on a breakfront, a place to drop keys etc which also gives to it a certain Busy World picture tropism to serve as a transitional spot when one comes in from outside, or is going out to outside. This is a very tender place in household symbology. In some movies, peepers get lucky as it is precisely at this “I’m home” spot just inside the door that a woman, in a horror movie, will drop off her clothes, and go right to the shower or bath. But, here, it is a bit more formal. Nefertiti presides, like the spirit of the house. This signifies that this is a house of a goddess, of a woman of substance, of a woman who knows what’s what, who will be protected, who has protection and power. This is a cult place, and the attendant of the cult is none other than Nefertiti, often, in household wall hangings simply present as a sign that, much in the manner in which taxidermy speaks to the nature of the man of the house, the woman of the house knows she is a diva princess, a goddess, and she is here to make sure everything stays just so, with proper respect. A cult/intercessional hybrid then. But, hypnagogically, the presence of this statue, with its powers, marks this place ritualistically, within the sacred circle, already established as, replacing in this instance the Village of dreams with a dream palace, that is, a glass onion symbolic second level dream space where everyone acts as if in a dream, entirely symbolically, as if it is all unreal, a lot of which we are going to find in this telling.

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But then the funny or interesting thing is that this statuette does not make one appearance and that’s that, no, it makes several appearances, and more than any other staging of the killing I have seen thus far, the focus is on the door, where both Frykowski and Folger ran to try to get a second chance and escape, and which was why, that is, killer incompetence, they were found on the lawn out front. After a good deal of mayhem inside, we come back round out of the house, to the front hall, and see the door open, as it perhaps has been open this whole time, breaking down the barrier between out there and in here, but, now, after suffering some stabbing inside, Folger runs out

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she stumbles by the statue, identifying herself as living under the aegis of the queen, and I will notice that in this version Folger is played by a quite beautiful actress. Here, her powers are depleted, somewhat drained of reality, half of her shown reflected in the mirror, Nefertiti turning her back on her, but she moves on, hoping to escape

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then Nefertiti lets her go, we are hopeful, she is out

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we also see the statuette when Frykowsky also tries to escape. Then, when it is over, when Tex says lets go, they leave that way too, leaving the door open, again. Though in this shot the aegis does not speak, the nature of his departure, as if nothing happen, she as if comments on it in her formality, he has violated the temple and will pay.

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then Tex is walking down with them, but, then, is like, we forgot to write something “witchy,” so Susan goes back (instead of saying hell no, glad to be rid of that place). So, she comes back, the door is still open, she comes into the emptiness of it.

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then very oddly, in a decision I will have to explore, it is only when Susan comes back in to the scene of the killing, because she needed some blood to write with, that she sops up some blood like ink to a pen to her handful of towel pencil, and it is in this heartless harvesting instance that we see Tate, dead. Two points. One, this speaks to the fact that they don’t care about them as people, they are just figures, as in figures of speech, symbols; this is playing with symbols in the glass onion, she is not a person, but a symbol whose death will give them a lot of attention, and proclaim clearly that Helter Skelter must now begin. This is a terrible state of fixation, often happening to radicals, to be in, dehumanizing the personhood of a person so that you can treat them like a symbol (I deplore this both negatively and positively, and will not engage in ping pong matches in which human beings are bandied about by so-called political minds for purely symbolic/political reasons). Two, this also means, and they are clear about it, making the towel into something like a torch getting oil for fire in an old Frankenstein mob movie, this speaks to the fact that they know that Tate is the big kill that will garner them the headlines, so it is magically appropriate, and for the curse of it, that their witchy calling card is written in her blood, as if by her killing and sacrifice to the cause they have made a blood brother oath to support and promote the revolution. So, unlike in any version of this scene, this is a quite wise scenario, mythically speaking.

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Then, even more so, again, in this version, this shot reminding me a lot of 1940s British film noir movies, very dark, but always so tres formal, she does not just squat and scribble something quickly on the door from the outside (as she really, in fact, did it), she opens the door into the formal hall, then, under the aegis of Nefertiti once again, serving in her third role capacity as the Hekate of the house, she then all but cultly writes her message PIGS on the door (with, goddess-wise, also Eleusinian, Thesmorphia, Persephone meaning). Previously as a Hekate statue, Nefertiti declared that this was not just a house, but a temple (not unlike the treatment of Parisian houses in 30s movies like Lionel Barrymore’s The devil doll (1936) which I wrote about), a cult place; then, with those trying to survive getting a second chance, she bestowed some power, but not enough, on her acolytes, she offered them the open door, the second chance; now, she closes the door, Susan is desecrating the door, the province of Nefertiti, but in the shot the statue is saying, curse away, it all goes back onto you, she is actually signing her own death warrant (the messages did not start Helter Skelter, but they sure did let the cops put two and two together).

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then she writes, like she is in art class, like an artist of death

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then she leaves it

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it is over, and fittingly, the scene closes with a shot of Sharon Tate, they knowing that they have killed a “star,” who already by then has a cult, who, since then, has more of a cult (I belong), whose world was violated, her protections, symbolized by Nefertiti, failed, its pretty good cinematic symbolism, if for 1971 well more than a tad old fashioned (apologies for the shot).

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But the interesting thing is that within this frame, the murders in whole are shown in a very ritualized way in this version, in a way which speaks to a lot of the fears of the time, and since. These are discussed in Part 2.