Hilary Duff (right) as Sharon Tate is attacked by the Manson family

Does it live up to the bad reviews?

I will give a spoiler warning for the following, but really, I think we all know how it ends.

The Haunting Of Sharon Tate released in April 2019, months before the 50th anniversary of the grisly murders of Sharon Tate (Hilary Duff) and her friends in her California home on August 8th 1969. Having a read of the reviews regarding this film, it’s almost a unanimous opinion that this film should have just never been made. Directed and written by Daniel Farrands, this home invasion horror attempts to offer an alternate ending to a real life tragedy, giving the victims the chance to ‘rise up and take their power back’. Based on a quote from a real life interview with Tate from 1968 regarding a nightmare she had that in hindsight seems to preminise her death; the film centres on the 3 days leading up to her death where the young actress is plagued by nightmares of her and her friends’ impending murders.

Horror films that claim to be based on true events go one of two ways: they’re either so loosely based on real life people or events that it’s hardly worth mentioning but the writer was inspired nonetheless so feels a need to mention it to add a little extra edge. Or they tell the story as it happened, forming a much more informative, true crime piece than horror film. The Haunting Of Sharon Tate is… something else. In one of Sharon’s nightmares, the whole event plays out exactly as it did in real life in grotesque detail; including Tex Watson (Tyler Johnson) saying ‘I am the devil, and I am here to do the devil’s business’ in response to being asked who he was. Kudos needs to be given here for the attention to detail, but the rest of the film fails to follow any real facts. I understand that this was Farrands’ aim, but is that something any of us wanted to see? Thanks to her premonitions, Sharon and her friends Jay Sebring (Jonathan Bennett), Abigail Foster (Lydia Hearst), Wojciech Frykowsky (Pawel Szajda), and Steven Parent (Ryan Cargill) are able to escape their would be killers. However, it is then revealed that they are in fact ghosts, imagining an alternative version of events.

Despite receiving criticism, the acting isn’t terrible in this movie, Duff in particular portrays genuine fear and mania. The problem is that the actors were working with a script that is lacklustre, and a concept that is terrible at best. Considering it’s the summer of ’69, very little is done to set this scene with soundtrack, costumes, or hair. An interesting choice on the soundtrack however is the inclusion of Charles Manson’s ‘Cease To Exist’. Which in a film that Farrands is quoted as saying as being ‘in honour to the victims’ makes you think, is it? Or is it just sensationalising Charles Manson and his brood; once again adding to their notoriety and disregarding the real horror the victims faced?

This whole film just feels a little insensitive. I don’t feel Farrands necessarily intended it to be, but it’s also something he should have considered more carefully. These were real people, real victims, with real friends and families left behind. To technically victim blame, and change the narrative into a more fantastical driven one for entertainment value is disrespectful and unnecessary. This film being based so closely on something real creates discomfort, and leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth.

Overall, I don’t recommend this film, and give it a rating of 1⭐. It’s disrespectful, exploitative drivel of a tragedy that has seen far too much exploitation and sensationalism, and just needs to be put to rest.

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