★★ out of ★★★★★
This shocker tries to empower Sharon Tate and the other victims of the Manson murders, but though it tries to take the high road, it seems wrong and unnecessary.
Directed by Daniel Farrands
One of at least four films being released this year to capitalize on the 50th year since actress Sharon Tate and and the other victims of the Manson Family murders were brutally slain, writer/director Daniel Farrands’ The Haunting of Sharon Tate uses an interview quote from the star of The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) where she predicted her own death as a springboard to build this occult-based reimagining of what led up to that fateful night. Though Farrands focuses on painting Tate in a heroic light in final girl style, the film comes off as a misguided exercise.
Relatives and friends of the murder victims are still in pain after five decades, and seeing both the murders recreated on screen and the victims portrayed as horror movie tropes looking to take out their attackers must not sit well with them, as it did not with me. Farrands’ cinematic attempt to give a certain amount of power to Tate and her friends could be spun in a positive manner, but it falls short of any noble ideas that might have originally been in mind.
To be certain, the technical qualities behind The Haunting of Sharon Tate are generally well done. Carlo Rinaldi’s cinematography is solid, and the use of soft lighting and color tricks gives a definite 1960s vibe at times. The eerie score by Fantom is one of the strongest elements of the film.
The cast is game, as well, with the actors doing their best with dialogue filled with exposition and pseudo-intellectual musings about predestiny and fate. Duff is always engaging to watch as Tate, both for the moments when her character really clicks, and for the ones when it falls short. Perhaps the oddest characterization in the film belongs to Steven Parent (Ryan Cargill), reimagined here as a loner who happens to be a self-taught electronics wizard.
I love a good supernatural film, but The Haunting of Sharon Tate is not one. It plays with some occult ideas, but knowing what happened in real life makes it feel like cheap, exploitative dreck here.
The film does offer entertainment, but not always the kind it set out to provide. The final act is a real head-scratcher, and though Farrands meant well, it is hard to imagine most viewers being satisfied with the film’s ending.
With some retooling, using fictional characters rather than real-life murder victims, and a different title, The Haunting of Sharon Tate might have been a more interesting straight horror movie. As it stands, it is an exploitative misstep that left this reviewer feeling uneasy.
Saban Films will release The Haunting of Sharon Tate in theaters and on demand on April 5.