The Haunting of Sharon Tate: A Tasteless, Confused Movie

The Manson Family Murders remain the most shocking crimes in American history. Nearly 50 years later, Helter Skelter is still one of the most read true crime books. A charismatic cult leader, The Beatles and The Beach Boys, a film starlet and famous director, macabre murders – all these factors have contributed to the legacy left by the crimes. To date, several film adaptations have surfaced. Now the latest re-telling, The Haunting of Sharon Tate, promises to be the most controversial.

Synopsis

In an earlier interview, Sharon Tate recounts a nightmare of a mysterious man standing in her bedroom. The nightmare ends with someone cutting her and Jay Sebring’s throats. One year later, Tate returns to the home she shares with husband Roman Polanski at Cielo Drive. Obsessed with fate and psychic visions of her own demise, Tate has friends stay with her while her husband is overseas. Hair stylist Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, and Wojciech Frykowski try to allay Tate’s fears. But Tate’s premonitions all come true when fate shows up at her doorstep in the shape of Charles Manson’s ‘Family Members’.

The Haunting of Sharon Tate A ‘Dog’s Breakfast’ of Styles

The Haunting of Sharon Tate is an awful movie. A really awful movie. Director Daniel Farrands makes several odd creative choices. In an effort to distinguish this re-telling, Farrands focuses on Tate’s obscure interview where she appeared to foretell her own murder. Everything in the movie then follows from this idea of fate. Hackneyed attempts to infuse the Cielo Drive murders with subtle supernatural references occasionally surface. Farrands even includes a tasteless nightmare about the murders before they happen. So we get to see Tate get murdered not once, but twice.

Neither a historically accurate crime thriller nor a scary horror movie.

Though its bad, Farrands ‘doubles down’, making things worse, by mixing other horror divergent horror elements. As the supernatural elements recede, Farrands draws in slasher and home invasion genres. None of these elements are well excecuted. The Haunting of Sharon Tate is a dull, ugly-looking movie. Even if you set aside its exploitative subject matter, Farrand’s horror-thriller is unimaginative. There’s no innovation or sense of style to the movie’s climactic setpiece. The Manson Family are reduced to dull shadows in the background. Lame attempts at jump scares fall flat. It’s double failure of a movie. Neither a historically accurate true crime thriller nor a scary horror movie.

Clunky Dialogue Made Even Worse by Wooden Delivery

In addition to directing, Farrands’ wrote the movie’s screenplay. On a related note, Farrands also wrote the screenplay for Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers. There are a lot of things wrong with The Haunting of Sharon Tate, but the screenplay is chief among its problems. Farrands bizarrely opts to re-imagine how much of the fateful night unfolded. Why? Much of this revisionist approach seems intent on putting Tate more in the middle of things. But The Manson Family Murders are ingrained in public consciousness. As a result, Farrands’ tinkering feels completely at odds with the story. In addition, the dialogue is clunky as it’s often used to serve lazy expository functions. Characters speak in completely unnatural ways. For instance, Johnathan Bennett’s ‘Jay Sebring’ reminds us he’s “the stylist for the stars”. No one talks like this in real life, and that’s just one illustration.

Hilary Duff may look like Sharon Tate, but her performanc never feels right.

All of this awful dialogue is made worse by the movie’s performances. Hilary Duff may look like Sharon Tate, but her performance never feels right. At times, Duff sounds like she’s delivering a completely off-note accent. Some of the dialogue delivery is excruciating. Playing one of the major Manson Family murderers, Tex Watson, Tyler Johnston mistakes wooden for stoic. Jonathan Bennett and Lydia Heart, playing Sebring and Abigail Folger, don’t fare much better. No one else in the cast even registers.

The Haunting of Sharon Tate Agressively Offensive and Stupid

Dull. Unimaginative. Ugly. Offensive. Stupid. The Haunting of Sharon Tate manages to be all these things. At some points in the movie, it’s all these things at the same time. It’s a movie that is unlikely to appeal to anyone. True crime purists will take issues with the liberties Farrands takes with the events. Horror fans will be underwhelmed with the movie’s poorly executed horror scenes. Everyone else will be put off by the movie’s stench of exploitation.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: F

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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