Director: Daniel Farrands
Writer: Daniel Farrands
Starring Hillary Duff, Jonathan Bennett, Lynda Hearst, Pawel Szajda, Tyler Johnson, Ryan Cargill.
It probably goes without saying that the concept of The Haunting of Sharon Tate is in pretty poor taste, but I’m assuming anyone still reading this is okay with that. So rather than comment on its repugnant inspiration, it seems more prudent to assess the film on its own merits as a sensationalistic piece of exploitation. After all, a horror film doesn’t necessarily need a class to be effective.
The entire story is based on what the real Sharon Tate once said in an interview, supposedly dreaming she and good friend Jay Sebring were brutally murdered…a full year before she and four others were killed by the Manson family. The film covers the three days leading up to the murders, where Tate (Hillary Duff) is home with friends Sebring (Jonathan Bennett), Abigail Folger (Lynda Hearst), and Wojciech Frykowsky (Pawel Szajda). Tate is repeatedly haunted by visions and signs of her impending doom at the hands of Manson’s crew. And yes, those visions are offered in graphic detail.
Subject matter notwithstanding, an interview quote is a pretty weak premise to build an entire movie around and writer-director Daniel Farrands isn’t up for the challenge of making these characters interesting enough to hang around, including Tate herself. Duff gives it a good college try and it’s obvious she’s relishing the chance to do something different, but all that’s required of her is to panic and cry before suddenly having the foresight to arm herself.
Speaking of which, Farrands tries to have his cake and eat it, too, presenting the world’s most infamous home invasion twice, first as one of Tate’s visions, which accurately recreates the murders which still haunt us today. But the second time, Farrands offers a revisionist take on the event that plays like the climactic showdown of a slasher film. The problem isn’t necessarily that he exploits a real tragedy for the sake of cheap thrills. The problem is that we’ve seen it all before in countless other home invasion movies.
The depressing denouement also suggests Farrands is a card-carrying member of the Ambrose Bierce Fan Club or at least a big Twilight Zone fan. Forget the tastelessness of the premise. Real-life inspiration notwithstanding, The Haunting of Sharon Tate is simply a dreary, repetitive, and ultimately derivative horror film.