Of the three forthcoming films about Manson Family murders at 10050 Cielo Drive, only one has garnered the unequivocal condemnation of Sharon Tate’s sister Debra, and it is The Haunting of Sharon Tate, a supernatural thriller starring Hilary Duff, Jonathan Bennett, and Lydia Hearst and directed by Daniel Farrands. Nevertheless, it’s also the first of the three projects to get an official trailer, and it is here in all its creepy, ghost-story weirdness.
Things kick off with “Time of the Season,” a 1968 track by the Zombies that, per its Wikipedia page, is “frequently used in pop culture to represent the era of its release.” Still images from immediately after the massacre—when a squad of Charles Manson’s disciples descended on Roman Polanski’s house, slaughtering his wife and her friends—flash on the screen, as if from a photo projector; the happy-go-lucky ambience of the track jars oddly with the tragic images. “Based on true events,” a script proudly displays across the screen. (Well, sort of.) Then, the record jerks to a halt.
What follows looks to be a supernatural-horror reimagining of an all too real tragedy, albeit one at the hands of a man who convinced his followers of his own divine right. Duff, as Tate, has premonitions, dreams of her own demise and that of her friends, and sees prowlers real and imagined encircling her house; per The Playlist, the filmmakers sought inspiration in a maybe-apocryphal quote in which, a year before her death, Tate reportedly said she has “had a psychic experience” and “it was a terribly frightening and disturbing thing for me.”
“It doesn’t matter who it is acting in it—it’s just tasteless,” Debra Tate told People magazine last year. “It’s classless how everyone is rushing to release something for the 50th anniversary of this horrific event.” (This year marks 50 years since the August 1969 murders.) Duff was slammed for an Instagram posted early last year, in which she posed with a teddy bear swaddled in a blue blanket. The caption—“Had the baby”—garnered particular criticism, given that Tate was murdered while eight months pregnant with Polanski’s baby.
Margot Robbie and Kate Bosworth will also play Tate in their respective projects, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (which Debra Tate initially condemned, before coming around after speaking with the director) and Michael Polish’s Tate, which similarly sought the Tate sister’s approval. (We know nothing about her performance as of yet, but Bosworth at least seems to have the look down pat.) Matt Smith will also play Manson in another film focused on the cult, Mary Harron’s Charlie Says.