The Haunting of Sharon Tate

Books, movies, documentaries, and pop-culture references by the hundred.

What more could possibly come to light or be said now about 1960’s hippie-cult leader Charles Manson and his wicked, wicked ways?

Tales of his evil influence and antics have pretty much contorted into a money-spinning cottage industry over the last five decades. 2019 was the 50th anniversary of the crimes the world would come to know as the Tate/LA Bianca murders. That year there was an outpouring of material offering various perspectives on Manson and the crazed, macabre events of August 1969.

The film THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE was part of that outpouring.

This movie poses the question “What if Sharon Tate and the other victims present at 10050 Cielo Drive on the night of August 9, 1969 had of fought back?” Not just fought back, but been completely able to turn the tables on their drug-crazed home-invaders. Completely. Unhesitatingly. Mercilessly. And kill them.

It’s a daring revisionist-history take on an already exhaustively told and re-told series of tragic, true events. The film’s director, Daniel Farrands (writer for HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS) has gone on record as saying –

Another premise contained in the movie is the idea of Sharon Tate having a premonition of her own death. This was based on an interview Sharon gave to columnist Dick Kleiner (1921 -2002) a year before her murder. The interview was published in the May 1970 issue of FATE magazine – a publication that centered around psychic phenomena and the paranormal and which still exists today.

When Kleiner asked whether she’d ever experienced any psychic phenomena – a question he routinely asked to hundreds of celebrities for the syndicated column – Tate related details of a violent dream she’d had a year before. The nightmare contained specifics uncannily similar to the eventual terrible fate that would befall her.

Critics back in 2019 were particularly contemptuous and… dare it be said, cold-blooded, in their appraisal of the film.

Many of the barbs were directed at the supposed questionable judgement shown by the filmmakers; to dare to concoct a fictionalized story – intended to supply a form of ‘entertainment’ to audiences – from the ashes of a true-life horrific crime that destroyed REAL people’s lives and represented a new-low-point in senseless depravity for 20th century American society.

Here’s a sampling of some of those critics misgivings hostilities –

Plus a few more…

And since we’re on a roll, may as well throw these not-so-humble opinions into the ring as well…

But what do critics know? It’s the average punter’s opinion that really counts, right?

When the female character walking next to Sharon Tate (Hilary Duff) in this scene from the film says “IT’S PRETTY EXTREME” (at the 52 second mark), she could just have easily been talking about the degree of outrage and disdain this movie has sparked.

Haters gonna hate. And haters in this case also quite obviously gonna take the moral high ground as well. What does SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK think? As a film, THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE has got its flaws. But it’s nowhere near as bad as this type of internet vitriol would have you believe.

For the acid-tongued opinion-pushers quoted above, the movie was a swing and a huge miss. SWS, on the other hand, would rather think of it as simply a huge swing; one that didn’t completely come off but, gosh darn… a huge, brave, creative and yes… respectful – swing nonetheless.

As to the the cries of exploitation, that all comes down to how you want to see it. Because it’s based on real events, any type of ‘re-imagining’, in the minds of some people, is simply not allowed. However, SCENIC tends to align with the thoughts of the director when he says the intention of the film was a positive history re-write granting the victims the ability to take back their power and turn the tables on their attackers.

Of course turning the tables on your attackers in real life is an against-the-odds proposition at the best of times. A group of civilized society people relaxing at home coming suddenly face to face with a cutthroat gang of drug-fueled, brain-washed murder-bots dispatched on a mission by the master they worship, are never going to be able to instantly flick a switch and transform into the raw-animal version of themselves needed to mount any form of genuine resistance against that degree of fanatical, overwhelming force.

On the subject of ‘re-imaginings’, the speculative what-if I’d be curious to see in a movie based on these tragic events would center around the well-known story of what very nearly happened with Steve McQueen (1930 – 1980) on August 9th, 1969.

On the night of the murders, the Hollywood actor was due to dine at Cielo Drive, having accepted an invitation from Sharon Tate to join her and her small gathering of friends. The tough-guy action star was actually en-route to the residence on his motorcycle when, as fate would have it, he stopped to offer a ride to a female hitchhiker.

McQueen, being the notorious ladies man he was, altered his plans in that moment and spent the remainder of the night back at his newly found female companion’s place. For years after, that unplanned decision was known around Hollywood circles as Steve McQueen’s ‘GREAT ESCAPE’.

It is tempting to ponder how the course of events may have taken a possibly altered course that night with the addition of an extra potent, fighting-fit male at the residence.

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4 thoughts on “The Haunting of Sharon Tate

  1. This raises so many thorny questions about what a writer is allowed to write about. Is no subject barred, no place too sensitive to thread?

    We all have to make individual judgements about and those judgements may change over time but in the end I think it boils down to how well it’s done.
    There was a tragic murder case in Ireland in the 1990s when a young man killed a single mother and her child and a few hours later a priest. Edna O Brien wrote a fictionalized account of the case a few years later. A storm of anger and disgust erupted condemning her but she maintained all along that no one can say to an author you can’t write that.

    She had done her research and interviewed the murderer on more than one occasion I think. The result was In The Forest, an extraordinary, intelligent novel that explores the nature of truly random killings or, at least, this particular random killing. She doesn’t make sense of it because no sense can be made.

    Why did the girl die: did she smile at a man begging for change and not smile the next day because she was worrying about a gas bill? Did he pass by and she didn’t notice him?

    There was nothing the young mother could have done to prevent what happened.
    And the priest? The murderer was on the run and needed the car he was driving, as simple and as terrible as that.
    I think the moral is that if you’re tackling something big that might upset some readers/viewers then you have an almighty obligation to understand what you are doing and do it well. It’s your only defense.

    I won’t go out of my way to watch The Haunting of Sharon Tate but I wonder why this film is seen to be more exploitative than others.
    If nothing else, the fact that the focus is on the victims suggests that it is good-hearted. But that isn’t enough. You have to be good as well.
    You have to add something to the millions of words & acres of film already produced.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Bridget for the tip on Edna O’Brien who I have now read is widely regarded as Ireland’s greatest living writer.

    The following review is from a reader on GOODREADS who posted these observations regarding O’Brien’s 2002 novel IN THE FOREST –

    “I’m not sure I’ve read a ‘true crime’ novel which sticks as closely as this does to the original murders.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly on its publication in 2002, it attracted plenty of controversy, the main complaint being that it was only 8 years after the shocking killings, dust had not had the chance to settle. It is understandable that an attempt to impose a fictional outline over the atrocities would stir up the grief in the local communities, and especially those more directly involved.

    However, O’Brien writes with tact and sympathy, and the result is a memorial to innocence and unprovoked destruction of beauty. She excels in descriptions of the woodland early in the piece, such a contrast to its irreversible contamination by the horrors that were to follow. Along with those images of the woodland is the colourful, slightly offbeat Ireland of the 90s, musical pub sessions, and a festive atmosphere, giving effervescence to the desolation we know will follow.

    Reading it 25 years after the murders is I suspect, very different; with the passing of time it is possible to see it as a sort of distorted fairy tale, the demented O’Kane, overcome by spite, the personification of terminal maladjustment.”

    I also wonder why the film THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE is seen to be more exploitative than others in the Manson ‘canon’. I agree as well that if nothing else, the fact that the focus is on the victims suggests that the filmmaker’s intentions were good-hearted.

    In this interview with the actress that plays Abigail Folger (one of the other slain victims on the night of August 9, 1969) in the film, she speaks (at around the 2 min mark) about the ‘due diligence’ and respect the filmmakers had for their subject.

    Scrolling down to the comments below this clip, this one in particular, touching on similar territory to what we have been discussing, sparked my interest –

    “The Amityville Horror and Amityville 2 The Possession were supernatural takes on real life murders released just 5 and 8 years after Ronald DeFeo jr murdered his family.

    Alfred Hitchcock made The Lodger less than 40 years after the Jack the Ripper murders.
    The Haunting of Sharon Tate was made 50 years after the Manson murders.

    People are complaining that this film is disrespectful and offensive but there’s been plenty of films like it which nobody complains about and many who are complaining here have probably watched and enjoyed.”

    Like

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