I have to admit I approached The Haunting Of Sharon Tate with quite a bit of caution. The casting of former Disney star Hillary Duff in the title role wasn’t the best of omens to be sure. And his plot had the potential to be tasteless in all the wrong ways. Sharon Tate in the three days before her death at the hands of Manson and his cult is haunted by premonitions of her murder. However, after seeing writer/director Daniel Farrands take on the DeFeo killings, The Amityville Murders, I decided to give it a chance.
Despite being based on an alleged quote by Tate, the film takes all manner of liberties with what we know happened. But, what film “based on true events” doesn’t? This is a horror film, not a documentary after all. The problem is, the changes they make aren’t very interesting. Just about any horror and/or true crime fan has seen these events depicted multiple times, so making big changes is risky. And making it into a fairly generic supernatural story is criminal.
And that’s what The Haunting Of Sharon Tate is, a fairly generic horror film. People see things that aren’t there, a tape recorder with one of Manson’s songs on it plays of its own accord, shadowy, and not so shadowy figures wandering around, you get the idea. It’s like a million other films, only tied into real murders with Charles Manson as a real-life boogeyman.
The last act switches from supernatural to home invasion horror but the film is so far from reality by this point it doesn’t matter. Manson sent one of his crew through a window to unlock the front door while everyone was asleep/passed out. Here it’s a siege and attack situation with Tate as the final girl. And those final scenes, are just embarrassing.
Ironically one of Tate’s nightmares accurately, and effectively recreates the murders. If the rest of the film had channelled that vibe this could have been a much better film. If it had even been a non-Manson film it might have come off better, but this, sadly is a mess.
I will give Duff credit for turning in a decent performance, better than I expected. Jonathan Bennett and Lydia Hearst are also good as Jay Sebring and Abigail Folger. But they can’t do much to save The Haunting Of Sharon Tate.
The Haunting Of Sharon Tate will be available in theatres and on-demand April 5, 2019, from Saban Films.