A year before she died, film star Sharon Tate gave an interview where she mentioned she had suffered a disturbing dream where she saw herself and one of her friends tied up with their throats cut open. She didn't think that much of it at the time, but in light of the events of August 1969 many have looked back on that anecdote as proof of her psychic premonition, especially as the way she died was one of the most sensational crimes of the twentieth century, and the idea that its outrage could have been predicted was too irresistible to ignore. But let us take a look at the murders at the ranch house in the Hollywood hills, and wonder how they might have turned out...
When Quentin Tarantino announced his project for 2019 was to be a restaging of the night of the Charles Manson Family massacre, Sharon Tate's sister for one was most upset, and little wonder as she had spent her life since that fateful night dealing with films that glamorised the murders, either by referencing them directly, or being inspired by them: there was a whole series of killer hippy thrillers and horrors just after it happened, from the tangential, like Dirty Harry, to the more exploitative, like I Drink Your Blood. The sister had not asked for Sharon to be dubiously memorialised in this manner, and deeply resented its reiteration so often.
Which brought us to, no, not Tarantino's efforts, but one of the cash-ins, which posited the crimes as a horror movie inspired by cult slasher The Strangers and Roman Polanski's Repulsion, with Sharon going mad with fear that Manson means her harm. Needless to say, just about everything you saw here was historically inaccurate, including the premonition, despite its feel of being inspired by note-taking on Wikipedia, lightly touching on facts to divert its story into a fanciful vengeance post mortem tale which somehow managed to be even more offensive than if its writer and director Daniel Farrands had played the atrocities for shits and giggles. Quite why he believed inventing a revision of the Manson murders was a good idea was nowhere to be seen here.
Former teen queen Hilary Duff played Sharon, who is near-constantly referred to by name over and over, as if the film was trying unsuccessfully to convince itself that this was a perfectly reasonable way to treat a criminal tragedy, and it's what she and the other victims would have wanted. In this telling, Sharon is plagued by predictive nightmares, so much so that she appears to be a lunatic and it's only us in the audience who can support her because we are well aware she will be meeting her maker soon. In bafflingly poor judgement, she stumbles across tapes of Manson's demos, where incredibly she finds he has recorded backwards messages on them, as the urban myth about heavy metal's Satanic panic had been reputed to do by moralists grasping at straws and hitting the eighties zeitgeist square on.
That would have been bad enough, but it goes on, with Duff hopeless in the role as a gibbering wreck, planting ominous portents in her way such as a Ouija board that says she will not live a long and happy life, or seeing visions of Manson, who in real life she never met, and his groupies who will end up slaughtering her and her unborn child, as well as her friends. This wasn't good (or bad) enough for Farrands, who proceeded to make up a different course of events for Tate reminiscent of what Tarantino did with Adolf Hitler in Inglourious Basterds; if that previous film had been controversial, the only reason The Haunting of Sharon Tate was not hauled over the coals was because it was a low budget shocker, complete with groaning synths and stings as if this was one of those reconstruction videos for a tabloid true crime TV show. It's difficult to convey just how wrong-headed this was without actually seeing it for yourself, not least because according to the dialogue Valley of the Dolls was more significant than Dance of the Vampires - husband Polanski doesn't appear, because God forbid some actor have to play a paedophile, right? The morals here were frankly toxic, and the thought of this introducing the case to those who didn't know about it was awful.