Filmmaker Daniel Farrands is no stranger to delving deep into the stories that are familiar to us horror fans. The writer, director and producer of THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE is the man behind the film The Amityville Murders, and a slew of Friday the 13th documentaries. He also penned Halloween 6 (you know, the one with Paul Rudd). It takes a lot of balls to take on such high-profile, true crime accounts that rank so high amongst those most passionate genre fans, and I, for one, think he has nailed it. I have quickly become a fan of Farrands’, and I cannot wait to see what he has coming up. I was lucky enough to speak with him, and we discussed his latest works, his dream project, and of course, horror movies.
How did you come up with this version of the story, and what made you want to do a re-telling of such a famous crime?
Daniel Farrands: I was in production on my previous film, The Amityville Murders, when I discussed the idea for this with the producers. I wasn’t as much interested in telling yet another version of the Manson “Family” as much as I wanted to focus on Sharon Tate and her friends in the days leading up to the tragedy. I also wanted to distance this film from the horrible reality of what happened in some ways, so I ultimately decided to set it in Purgatory. None of the events that occur in the film are supposed to be “factual.” I was interested in the spiritual side of what might happen after life is so abruptly and cruelly taken away, and I wanted to explore the question of how such a traumatic experience might imprint itself on the souls of the victims until they are able to find a way to release themselves from that trauma.
Were you afraid of any backlash from true crime purists?
Daniel Farrands: Since I never set out to make a “true crime” film, but rather a spiritual fantasy/thriller, I didn’t feel all that beholden to the moment-to-moment events that we all know to be true about the case. For example, in reality, Sharon Tate had lunch with two of her closest friends at the house the day of the murders; she had dinner at El Coyote on Beverly Blvd. But in the film, all of the characters are isolated in this house; no one apart from them and their tormentors exists. They are essentially characters replaying their own tragedy in the confines of the house on Cielo Drive, which ironically in Spanish means “Heaven.”
You also directed one of my favorite films from 2018, The Amityville Murders, and on your resume are films full of backstories and deep dives into beloved classics such as Friday the 13th, Scream and The Haunting in Connecticut. What is your process and how do you typically research?
Daniel Farrands: Thank you so much. We had a great time making both Amityville and Sharon Tate and I was blessed with an incredibly hard-working and loyal team that carried over to both projects. I have always had an intense interest in horror, and I think in some ways I gravitate toward true stories of horror because it is so hard for me to rationalize that kind of evil. Growing up in the early 70s and into the 80s, it felt we were surrounded by mayhem – kidnappings, home invasions, serial killers like Bundy and The Hillside Stranglers. It wasn’t a time many people felt safe in their homes. I feel like horror films reflect what is happening with us culturally and politically, and I don’t think it’s an accident that so many of these horrific stories from that era, stories that strike so close to home, are being re-examined and brought back to life. Netflix almost owes its existence to its “true crime” section. In terms of my research, I do watch a lot of documentaries. I re-read “Helter Skelter” (and slept with the lights on) and watched several retrospectives on Sharon Tate and the murders. Again, since I wasn’t interested in making a movie about the insane people who committed these murders, the bulk of my time was invested in learning as much as I could about Sharon, Jay, Voytek, Gibby and Steve Parent.
What is your dream project/story to tell?
Daniel Farrands: Well, given the fact that I edited the book and produced the eight-hour documentary on its legacy, I would love to be the one to make Friday the 13th – Part 13. I think more than just about anyone, I know what the fans of that franchise want to see and it would just be a lot of fun to set Jason Voorhees loose again at Crystal Lake. Beyond that, I have been developing a project about Thomas Edison and his attempt to create a machine that would enable him to talk to the dead. I never stray too far from my “haunted” roots.
What is your favorite scary movie?
Daniel Farrands: There are so many that it’s hard to choose just one, but it would undoubtedly be the original Halloween. I was probably the most hardcore fan of the series, and it was a life-changing experience when I was chosen to write Halloween 6 in the mid-90s. It wasn’t quite the movie I’d hoped it would be (we’ll save that for a different interview!) but it certainly opened up doors for me that may not have opened otherwise. I also am a huge fan of Poltergeist, The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and of course A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th.
THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE is now in select theaters and available on VOD.