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USA 2018
Directed by
Daniel Farrands
94 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

The Haunting Of Sharon Tate

Not that I know much about such things but taken as a sample of the slasher/thriller genre in the manner of  Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, writer-director, Daniel Farrands’ film is probably OK. But if you come at it not from this perspective but an interest in the real and infamous August 1969 Manson murders, The Haunting of Sharon Tate is a dubious project, one that appropriates Tate’s and her friends’ names (and lives) with a singular lack of taste even for a genre which is hardly known for its charms.

Sometime TV starlet (she became famous as Lizzy McGuire in the 2001 Disney Channel series of that name) and pop chanteuse Hilary Duff, clearly trying to break away from her powder puff image (she is credited as an executive producer which I assume means that she put her own money into it), plays Tate who is approaching the full term of her pregnancy and who, as the film’s title suggests, is haunted by premonitions of her horrific death in the Beverly Hills house she shares with her husband Roman Polanski. He is overseas and the house is now being looked after by friends Abigail Folger (Lydia Hearst) and Wojciech Frykowski (Pawel Szajda). Celebrity hairdresser and Tate's former boyfriend Jay Sebring (Jonathan Bennett) is visiting her as well.

This much is factual but Farrands reconfigures this raw material into your standard (see above) slasher/thriller and  in order to give it some historical credibility re-presents it with archival footage of the real Sharon Tate on her wedding day and real police removing the bodies from the real crime scene.

The problem is that there is no meaningful connection between the genre form and the actuality of the characters and the events. Often an underlying reality can give a fiction film considerable heft but here the strategy backfires (the featuring of a song written and sung by Charles Manson, ‘Cease to Exist’" is truly creepy) simply appearing exploitative of the horrific tragedy.. That Farrands’ script is lumbered with heavy-handed dialogue that tries to tie the two aspects together and that the characters never become more than stand-ins for the real victims and perpetrators (Farrends inserts some archival footage of an interview with Susan Atkins shortly after the murders) doesn’t help.

The Haunting of Sharon Tate is a film that may appeal to fans of the genre but everyone else can forget it.




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