He's certainly come a long way from playing Prince Philip. The Crown's Matt Smith transforms into murderous cult leader Charles Manson in the Charlie Says trailer — and his portrayal is sure to send shivers down your spine. “We’re all about love here. We got no secrets. We got no shame,” Manson explains to one of his followers, Leslie Van Houten (Game of Thrones‘ Hannah Murray), in the new sneak peek of the film, which will hit select theaters on May 10. “Sometimes there has to be some death of self, changes, tears. Are you willing to die for me?”
In the Mary Herron-directed film, which focuses on three incarcerated real-life "Manson girls" — Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon) and Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendón), in addition to Murray's Van Houten — Smith plays two disparate versions of Manson. In one moment, he's strumming a guitar in nature, and then in the next he's teaching a lesson in how to properly stab someone, encouraging his Manson Family members to "thrust and jab like you mean it." But all of this seems to occur in flashback, as the three women are seen serving their respective prison sentences in a special security ward at the same prison.
Here's the official Charlie Says synopsis, courtesy of Deadline:
"Confined to an isolated cellblock in a California penitentiary, the trio seems destined to live out the rest of their lives under the delusion that their crimes were part of a cosmic plan—until empathetic graduate student Karlene Faith ([Merritt] Wever) is enlisted to rehabilitate them. Convinced the prisoners are not the inhuman monsters the world believes them to be, Karlene begins the arduous process of breaking down the psychological barriers erected by Manson. But are the women ready to confront the horror of what they did?"
The trailer immediately sets that tone, too. "I know everyone thinks we're these scary creatures who committed these horrible crimes, but we did what we had to do," one of the women says in a voiceover in the clip, which also features Chace Crawford (as Tex Watson) and Suki Waterhouse (as Mary Brunner).
At the same time, Krenwinkel also reminds Houten: “We don’t talk about our pasts. Our lived started when we met Charlie.”
Wever's character, who wonders if "maybe these women are victims too," is on a mission, however, to remind the women who they were before they ever met Charles Manson.
In a series of flashes, the preview for the movie, which debuted at last year's Venice Film Festival, also shows Grace Van Dien as Sharon Tate, who was murdered while eight months pregnant in 1969, in addition to bloody scenes, as well as orgy-like situations.
Charles Says is one of many Manson-themed movies set to hit theaters later this year. Damon Herriman will play Manson in both Quentin Tarantino’s 1969-set Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and David Fincher’s Mindhunter, which takes place in the '80s. Hilary Duff is also starring in the upcoming horror movie, The Haunting Of Sharon Tate.
After seeing Smith's Manson, there's just one more reason to sleep with the lights on at night.