Directed By Daniel Farrands
Starring – Hilary Duff, Jonathan Bennett, Lydia Hearst
The Plot – Pregnant with director Roman Polanski’s child and awaiting his return from Europe, 26-year-old Hollywood actress Sharon Tate (Duff) becomes plagued by visions of her imminent death.
Rated R for strong bloody violence, terror, and some adult language
– Unique ending. While it is certainly predictable once you know the flow of the formula, in that this story is alternating the events of history, the climax of the film’s big reveal was one that was exceptionally satisfying for me, and further fleshed out the tragedy from Tate that the rest of the film around it abandoned. It’s strange because I’ve never seen a movie where I hate 90% of it, yet find the ending compelling, but the steps of this twist were put into motion earlier on in the film, when a supporting character mentions people living out various versions of their lives. It’s a risky direction in terms of satisfying the masses of people who know very little about the real Sharon Tate, but one that I feel pays off in at least sending us away with an air of sentimentality for the lives lost in a devastating tragedy.
– Flat performances. I hate demeaning the skills of a cast that have made acting their careers, but the ensemble work here is every bit undermined as it is emotionally vapid of a single empathetic gain. Duff in particular is relegated to a series of annoying screams and ditzy dialogue deposits that outlines Sharon as a bumbling dependent, who can’t figure out that she has the ability to leave her house at any second. Beyond Duff, the supporting cast is as bland and inconsequential as a blank sheet of paper. None of them receive even the slightest attention in characterization, leaving them to impress by the weight of their performances, which are so underwhelming that they often rubbed together when I tried to remember who was who.
– Horrendous computer generation. Why would a movie revolving around Sharon Tate in the 60’s require special effects? The inclusion of generated blood and flies were about as obvious as a truck hitting a nitroglycerine plant, thanks to texture and color coordination that made them dominate the attention of the scene. The blood is really unnecessary when you consider the movie actually does use practical blood on the bodies of its victims, but director’s decision required splatters to register in the framing of the scene, and gives it a cheap quality that immediately took me out of the heat of the moment each time it pops like a super soaker.
– As a period piece. As to where Quentin Tarantino reveled in the nostalgia of the flower generation, “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” can’t entice us with a visual seduction to grant weight in the respective time period. Instead of losing itself audibly and visually in the allure of the setting, the film grounds its believability with a dominantly indoor setting and flavorless costume design that keeps us from endearing the vibe of the world outside of their door. I would depend on music to save us from this overstep of artistic direction, but there’s only one song repeated five times throughout the film, and even that song selection was a generous B-side at best, offering no familiarity to at least get our toes tapping in classic glee. Without hype in a visual presentation, “Haunting” bores us to tears with a series of mundane visuals and conventional cinematography that misses a chance to provide proper reflection to a forgotten age of unique expressionalism.
– Documentary feeling. If it isn’t enough that Farrands comes from a mostly documentary genre background of filmmaking, the decision to instill real life archival footage of Tate’s story is one that has a surprisingly negative reaction to what it does to the film surrounding it. Think about it, if the real, accurate footage gives us all of the information that we need in factual accuracy, what is the point of the film? The point of a film adaptation in gimmick terms is to suspend disbelief, and treat the film in front of us as the event being played out in real time. How can I do that if the footage counterfeits everything that the movie itself is treating as gospel? It’s tough enough when you know that the better story is being played out in a documentary somewhere on this planet, but the encroachment of the grainy footage giving away what little surprise there is for uneducated audience members seeking curiosity for the first time. Strangely enough, it even fumbles the charm of this positive, as it doesn’t keep up the consistency of its inclusion every fifteen minutes during the first half of the picture. The second half is completely void of any archive footage, leaving us alone with 84 minutes of a movie that can’t contend with forty total seconds of factual footage.
– Overstuffed dialogue. The line deposits from the cast in this movie are simply trying to stuff ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag, and the desperation of trying to touch on so many themes from so many different angles leaves us with a series of conversations that don’t feel honest even once. If 84 minutes isn’t enough to give a well illustrated backstory, then we must include as much off-screen exposition as possible, giving us a full-fledged review of the who, what, why, and where each time we’re just trying to throwaway interaction between two characters. In addition to this, there are out of place deposits, where Tate will suddenly become philosophical, with all of her theorizing and justification, which completely comes out of left field when compared to the rest of the dialogue. This means that it will obviously serve a purpose later on, which it does, making what follows as predictable as a fart after Taco Bell.
– Disjointed editing. One of my least favorite cliches in psychological horror movies is when a scene will try to authenticate the deteriorating mental health of a character by stitching together an array of scenes that bounce off one another, and make the depiction of the scene as visually disgusting as possible. For this movie, that inclusion mars and distorts the context of the scene so viscerally that you can’t tell what is taking place. It overcomplicates the intended purpose so terribly and so repeatedly that it sort of crafts its own demise so frequently, and it’s in that perspective where this movie really does itself zero favors in appealing to a new generation looking for answers from its compelling story.
– Abundance of jump scares. The only thing that this movie has that is even remotely in the direction of thrills for the audience is a series of untimely jump scares that try so desperately to make this something that it rightfully isn’t. None of the jumps are remotely justified, mostly coming in the form of shriek noises from the musical compositions to reflect a stranger appearing somewhere in this distance. To double this problem, the framing and lighting for the scenes are so amateurly manufactured that often I only heard the noise, and didn’t understand what they were alluding to. Nothing in this movie is even remotely intimidating. From the lackluster imagery, to the watered down violence, nothing warrants the coveted R-rating that this movie generates, and as far as horror goes, it’s as harmless as a pussycat.
– Completely disrespectful. Where do I start with this one? There is very little factual truth to what is portrayed in the film, and even worse than that, Sharon Tate is rendered in a way that has led to some real life off-screen drama from her relatives not being happy for the way she was portrayed. For my money, I can understand their pain. The revelation that Tate was mentally unstable, complete with visual hallucinations and a streak of stupidity a mile long, is enough to give a bad taste in the mouths of anyone who watches it, for how they trash the deceased. Beyond that, the small aspects that should be correct even in an alternate timeline of history are completely destroyed. Character’s in the wrong positions at the house, characters who didn’t have as big of a role on the night in question are given a bigger role in the events of the movie, and the lack of attention given to key aspects within character appearances, gives this a no care or concern finished product with what we’re given. If you’re watching this film to learn anything new or honest about the night in question, keep traveling along, because Charles Manson is only the second worst thing to ever happen to Sharon Tate.
– Endlessly boring. Without question, the thing that separates this film from other horrible movies of the year, is its ruthless blank canvas that never even remotely signifies its existence. There are scenes with two characters in frame, where they don’t talk for long periods of silence, cliche dream sequences being run into the ground to the point where they are predictable with each new one, a screenplay that takes ages to get off the ground, further complicating the pacing consistency of the entire film, and of course laughably bad A.D.R that distorts the believability of every scene they maul. Other bad films of the year are typically so bad that they’re good. Even if I gave them a low grade, I wouldn’t be against going back and watching them again. That isn’t the case with this movie, as its pretentiousness is only outweighed by its paralyzing boredom, giving us 84 minutes of art replicating life if the life was full of complete inane bullshit.
My Grade: 1/10 or F-