The first thing one must consider after watching the new film ‘The Haunting of Sharon Tate’ from writer/director Daniel Farrands, is ‘why”?
The film itself does not rely on the events of the real life Sharon Tate tragedy, nor does it add or relate any new information about the murders of that terrible night. Instead, the filmmakers use the name of Sharon Tate to wax poetic about fate, choice, and second chances.
Why use those notorious murders as a backdrop? A quick search reveals the Farrands recently made a film about the Defeo murders in the infamous Amityville house and is currently working on a film titled ‘The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson’. It would seem to be a trilogy of sensationalism and tragic star gazing.
As for The Haunting of Sharon Tate itself, the film plays as part true-crime reenactment, part biopic, and part rumination on choice and fate. This cinematic equation equals a clunky, ill-paced, and sometimes laughable film. The dialogue and performances are in the same arena as cheap reenactments on late night true crime shows. The biopic elements are revealed in unnatural and awkward exposition, i.e. supposedly close friends telling each other details that close friends should, in all reality, already know.
So that leaves us with the rumination of freewill versus fate.
In this narrative that rumination takes form in the ambling pondering of Sharon Tate who wistfully, and repeatedly, asks her friends if they believe in destiny or if we can change our fate through different choices.
This takes visual form in several presentations of the night of the Tate murders. The murders happen over and over again, details shifting, the chronology changing, like a twisted ‘Groundhog Day’. Reality weaves from dream to dream, from reality to reality until it becomes unclear which outcome is the permanent one. Each presentation of the murders have a different outcome, until we reach the final version which resembles a revenge horror film more than any representation of historical events.
So is this film an attempt to give Sharon Tate her revenge, her chance? Is it some play at fan fiction that allows desired outcomes over their reality based counterparts? Is this tantamount to when Tarantino made sure we saw Hitler’s face explode in ‘Inglorious Basterds’?
Despite the motivations of the filmmakers, the film ultimately feels like a cheap and garish revenge film that revels in cheap scares and extended violence. The real people and their names and likenesses play no purpose here.
In truth, the fact that the name of Sharon Tate, and her tragedy, are the stargazing umbrella this film hides itself under makes the film somehow feel even grimier, more exploitive and generally ickier than if it had been a simple exploitation film. When violence lingers it does so under the weight of the real life violence the film claims to lay tribute.