Genre : Horror
Rating : Unrated
Director: Daniel Farrands
If there’s one thing movie audiences love it’s an old school true crime story. Fads may come and go but a good true crime story seems to be universal and one of the most popular subjects is cult leader Charles Manson. A typical hippie at first glance his “family” would commit one of the most gruesome crimes in California history. Just after midnight in 1969, four members of Manson’s Family would invade one of the many mansions in Benedict Canyon. Thinking it was the home of a record producer Terry Melcher, a man Manson felt wronged him, they murdered up-and-coming actress Sharon Tate and friends she was entertaining. What’s even scarier, she may have known about it beforehand. Rumor has it that Tate had a premonition of her fate two years earlier. Although the rumor is easily refutable The Haunting of Sharon Tate asks what if it were true?
Taking place just three days before Tate’s death on August 9, 1969 a pregnant Sharon Tate waits for the return of Roman Polanski. Staying with some of Roman’s friends she feels alienated in her own home. A situation only made worse when she has a nightmare/premonition of a mysterious cult killing her and her friends.
As you can see, writer-director Daniel Farrands took quite a few liberties with Sharon Tate’s story with the nightmare being just the beginning. Instead of making a straight forward crime story he goes head first into the supernatural. Depending on how you feel about this fact determines how you will react to The Haunting of Sharon Tate in general. If you can look beyond that it doesn’t fare much better as a movie.
Trying to be a mix of Zodiac and Stir of Echoes it does neither right. A combination of cheesy dialogue and comically bad production value make the movie feel less like a David Fincher and more Lifetime movie of the week. Then, around the 45-minute mark, The Haunting of Sharon Tate dives headfirst into the horror genre. Unfortunately, the parade of home invasion-based jump scares lose their luster quite quickly. By the time the insanity hits its peak it feels too little too late.
To my surprise the highlight of the film is ex-teen queen Hilary Duff. The former Lizzie McGuire/”So Yesterday” songstress seems like an odd fit and she absolutely is. She doesn’t quite nail Tate’s accent and it can lean a bit too Hallmark original movie. And yet it can be oddly charming juxtaposed against the movie’s grim atmosphere. You can tell she’s trying her best with the material and it can be quite endearing. And although former Mean Girls star Jonathan Bennett can chew the scenary at times this is Duff’s show, for better and for worse.
The Haunting of Sharon Tate is problematic from the jump but it could have been salvaged. It could have been the next “so bad its good” cult classic ala Liz & Dick if it went all the way with the melodramatics. At the same time, it could have been the next great exploitation movie if it leaned more into its inherently seedy nature. Instead writer-director Daniel Farrands lands somewhere in between that is too bloody for Hallmark yet too schmaltzy for the midnight movie crowd.
Links : IMDB
The Haunting of Sharon Tate is now in theaters and on VOD
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