The Haunting of Sharon Tate, 2019.
Directed by Daniel Farrands.
Starring Hilary Duff, Jonathan Bennett, Lydia Hearst, Pawel Szajda.
Young and promising actress Sharon Tate becomes plagued by visions of her imminent death. Inspired by an actual quote from Tate, the film follows the events that led to the murder of her and her friends by the Manson Family.
Before diving fully into The Haunting of Sharon Tate, there’s one thing to make very clear. This film tells the story it wants, stretching or making up things for the sake of the narrative. But the difference between this and the controversy of a movie like Green Book is you know The Haunting of Sharon Tate is taking full liberty with the material. Sure the film is inspired by the quote from Sharon Tate about having a nightmare of her murder, but there’s a lot that director Daniel Farrands adds to this. You know this is still entertainment above anything else.
Yes, there’s no lacking in the entertainment department here. The word campy doesn’t begin to describe The Haunting of Sharon Tate as it ranges from “so bad” to “so bad, it’s good” at the drop of a hat. There’s a shocking moment about halfway through the film where you know all bets are off, and this is going to do something different.
This point is where a viewer chooses how to view the rest of the film; you either hate it for being exploitive or accept the nonsense. I went with the latter and found myself shaking my head in bewilderment for the next 45 minutes. There was no shortage of surprises and shocks along the way, no matter if it’s for better or worse.
What surprises me the most – good and bad – is the cast. Jonathan Bennett and Hilary Duff feel like the pickings of a strange millennial fever-dream as the two are most famous with ’00s audiences, not exactly the core demographic for a story about Tate murders. Jonathan Bennet does fine in his role, never having enough material to hinder the film but not chewing up the scenery as needed. That’s a job for Hilary Duff who carries the film with her odd impression of Sharon Tate and final girl finale. Giving her a new spin on the story allows Duff to turn Tate into a much different character. Again, it might not be in the best taste, but it saves from watching another similar story about this tragic event.
There’s a particular aesthetic for this film, and they drive it home. A lot of soft lighting, very ’60s. The first five minute features enough color correction filters that it feels like scrolling through Instagram. Let’s not forget the long panning shots or slow, creepy dolly zooms. And the use of archive footage feels like a lot of the music videos you’d see from a hipster musician. It ends up feeling like a Lana Del Rey music video. At least that’s a highlight for the film as low-budget features like this usually lack artistic direction.
While discussing the technical side, it feels like a good time to point out the odd audio for the film. While the dialogue is relatively stilted due to the script, it also feels like there is a lot of ADR happening. ADR is when the actors go back into a studio to record lines, screams, or noises over again. Usually due to not picking it up on the set or it’s not what the directed intended. From the start, it feels like a lot of the audio was captured after as it just doesn’t feel like the actors are in the same scene.
When dealing with campy or provocative films, little technical mistakes will instantly throw off viewers and allow them to see other flaws. The idea is to immerse the viewer into your experience, never giving them a moment to catch their breathe or point out a mistake. There’s enough of them in The Haunting of Sharon Tate to take you out of the film and lowers the overall viewing experience.
There’s a key to a movie like The Haunting of Sharon Tate: you can’t hold anything back, or it just seems like you aren’t taking anything seriously. In the theatre, it’s called “playing it for the back row.” That’s when you act so big that people in the back of the venue can see all of your actings. The filmmakers put in the effort and knew they were making a piece that was a bit over-the-top, but that doesn’t excuse all the mistakes.
Exploitive? Yes. Entertaining? Very. The Haunting of Sharon Tate plays more like a campy melodrama than a horror retelling of real events. The film isn’t great, but the insanity is still quite enjoyable.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★