I typically avoid material involving Charles Manson, specifically the night of the Sharon Tate murders. I read “Helter Skelter” for the first time a few years ago and felt sick to my stomach. Not much gets under my skin, but that book was filled with so much horrific violence and it really bothered me that it was all true. Not too long after, I believe, Manson was released to a hospital and I honestly got paranoid that some of his followers would find a way to get him out. Luckily, he’s a dead man now and I have no shame in saying that. The world is truly a safer place without him.
Recently, word came out that not only was there a movie being made about that night, but pop star Hilary Duff would be playing Sharon Tate in a fictionalized take of what conspired during those events. On top of that, it would be written and directed from the guy who gave us the most divisive Halloween sequel ever made, Daniel Farrands. This clearly wasn’t going to be a page by page reenactment that we all know and I was curious the direction this version of the story was going to take. To summarize it best, this movie is going to piss a lot of people off.
As Tate, Duff delivers as an angelic actress who decides to stay in a lonely marriage as she nears the end of her pregnancy. Her husband, the controversial director Roman Polanski, is out of the country working on a film and Tate stays with a few friends including Abigail Folger, heiress to the Folger coffee fortune. Tate has nightmares and visions of her and her friends getting murdered, but everyone blows it off of mere stress. Polanski was apparently a womanizer that Tate learned to accept despite wanting her own traditional relationship. Yes, the movie drives us through the night of the attack, but through a perspective that will come unexpectedly.
Those interested in the Manson cult will definitely be wanting to check this out but might take issues with the creative changes Farrands chose to make. Duff shines and exudes Hollywood glamour, even if her odd accent can be a bit distracting. She isn’t the only notable casting choice here. Jonathan Bennett of Mean Girls fame plays Jay Sebring and he has definitely grown into leading man handsomeness that delivers the old school charm. Folger is played by Lydia Hearst, daughter of the Patty Hearst who had made headlines in the 70s after her kidnapping from a terrorist group who was later convicted of related crimes and pardoned by then-President Bill Clinton. Hearst is also married to Chris Hardwicke, a pop culture personality with abuse allegations that became public during the #MeToo movement. Basically, the casting of THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE was no coincidence and I kind of dig it for that.
As a movie itself, it doesn’t do too much for us in getting to know many of the characters outside of Tate. However, the last night plays in a way where our victims are fighters and are given a final act that felt like it had good intentions. Duff shows a different side that fans like myself had yet to see and works with what she’s got. She’ll add the necessary publicity this movie needs to feel credible as online chatter is already bashing the mere thought of this dramatization. I just wish they gave the same kind of criticism to the dozens of other versions that have been released in just the last ten years alone. THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE arrives in theaters and On Demand April 5, 2019.