The Haunting of Sharon Tate very loosely reimagines the Manson Family murders that took place at 10050 Cielo Drive. The film focuses on Sharon Tate’s nightmares and the question of whether our fate is predetermined or we have free will to choose our own destiny.
In the days before her fateful encounter with The Manson Family, Tate (portrayed here by Hilary Duff) experiences a series of increasingly violent dreams and hallucinations that convince her she’s not long for this world.
The idea behind the film comes from a tabloid article by Dick Kleiner, suggesting that Sharon Tate foresaw her own murder in a dream roughly a year before it happened. The film leans quite heavily into the idea that Tate not only foresaw her own murder but also that she was frantic and certain her demise was imminent in the days leading up to her death.
Daniel Farrands wrote and directed The Haunting of Sharon Tate. The intersection of fact and fiction seems to be an area of interest for Farrands. He has also helmed a picture about the infamous Amityville house and a short film investigating the true story behind The Haunting in Connecticut. While there are certain aspects of his picture that work, his script is often lacking and he never manages to elicit truly inspired performances from his cast. More on both the screenplay and performances in just a moment. But, first, lets take a look at some of the aspects of the flick that do work.
The film’s set design, wardrobe, makeup, and hair are all very true to the era. A lot of effort went into recreating the look and feel of 1969 and for the most part, that piece of the picture is successful.
The film is rife with jump scares. Some more effective than others. I certainly found myself startled in a few of the more unexpected (and thereby effective) scare sequences. The denouement is fairly exhilarating. The tension continues to build throughout the final thirty minutes and that kept me on the edge of my seat. Certain liberties were taken with the interpretation of events but I will leave it at that for anyone that plans to see the film.
In full hair, makeup, and wardrobe, Hilary Duff has some semblance of likeness to Sharon Tate. But her performance never fully convinced me that she was actually the late Mrs. Roman Polanski. Hillary Duff’s manner of speaking and mannerisms were more reminiscent of her own than of Tate. And Duff’s performance is quite melodramatic. Early in the film, it’s often too over-the-top to be taken seriously.
However, it’s not just Duff’s acting that’s subpar. Her costars Lydia Hearst (who plays Abigail Folger) and Pawel Szajda (who plays Folger’s boyfriend Wojciech Frykowski) both turn in hammy performances that don’t do a lot to help make up for Duff’s lack of success in the role.
In addition to performances that are often less than convincing, the script is also partly to blame for some of the film’s shortcomings. Much of the dialogue is completely unnatural. I found myself growing irritated at an overly sentimental exchange between Tate and the groundskeeper, in which she asks him to look into the tape Manson left at her house. In said exchange, Tate encourages the groundskeeper to go back home and tell his family that he loves them. The entire encounter reads as artificial and void of even a shred of believability.
As far as paying respect to the deceased, there are certain parts of the film that are hard to interpret as anything but being done in poor taste: The fact that Charles Manson’s ‘Cease to Exist’ features in the picture is more than a little unsettling. A track laid down by the man who orchestrated Tate’s demise is played in a film loosely based on the final days of her life. Daniel Farrands explains his intentions behind this on the commentary track, saying that his aim was certainly not to glorify Manson. But, even still, it’s hard to accept that explanation.
As far as special features, the Blu-ray release is pretty bare bones. There is a look at a promo spot for the film and a (much-needed) director’s commentary that allows Daniel Farrands to explain some of the choices he made and what his intentions were with his loose retelling of the true story.
The Haunting of Sharon Tate is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital. It’s probably worth a watch if you’re not easily offended and your expectations aren’t sky high.
Wicked Rating: 5/10
Director(s): Daniel Farrands
Writer(s): Daniel Farrands
Starring: Hilary Duff, Lydia Hearst, and Pawel Szajda
Studio/Production Co: Saban Films
Run Time: 90 Minutes