Warning: This story contains mild spoilers for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
Quentin Tarantino's homage to Hollywood and the filmmaking industry in the late '60s, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, just hit theaters and it is everything you would expect from the director. It's clever, detailed, and doesn't spare the viewer when it comes to gratuitous gore. And if you're trying to figure out how violent Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood gets before you hit the theater, we've got you covered.
There is one significant difference between this film and the rest of Tarantino's catalogue – the film's main characters, while fictional, orbit around the lives of very real people, and people we all know experienced untimely and tragic deaths. That made the film's premise, and its retelling of Manson Family murder victim Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie in the film), controversial before anyone ever saw it. And while we can't tell you exactly how Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood handles the Manson Murders (no spoilers!), we can tell you how rough the movie gets before you commit to that two hour and forty five minute runtime.
Tarantino's glorification of gore is a mainstay in his directorial style. When it comes to films like Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, or Django Unchained, the gushing spurts of blood and excessive violence are part of their charm for many cinephiles. The difference is that they involve fictional characters. When that same approach is redirected to the lives and legacies of real people with surviving family and loved ones, it's hard not to spend most of the film wondering if Once Upon A Time crosses the line into morbid and sensationalist territory.
While we're not about to tell you exactly what happens at the end of the movie, but just know that whatever you're expecting this movie to do, you actually have no idea. It also helps to know that, with the exception of a handful of bloody punches thrown by Brad Pitt's character, Cliff Booth — a stuntman with a penchant for petty violence — the majority of the movie's runtime is spent watching the characters have conversations, drive around Los Angeles, and do every day things. Minute for minute, there's actually very little violence for a Tarantino film.
Where the violence does appear, however, is the much fussed over ending of the film, on the fateful night when four Manson Family members invaded a home on Beverly Hills enclave Cielo Drive. This scene does get quite bloody and visceral and there are more than a handful of images that will turn even slightly weak stomachs. Tarantino saves all his violence for this final moment, so it's essentially highly potent, highly concentrated Tarantino gore, spent in a matter of minutes.
As for how the movie addresses Sharon Tate, Debra Tate, Sharon's sister, has been very protective over her sister's legacy. In the past, she has openly criticized films attempting to tell Sharon's story. Hilary Duff stars as Sharon Tate in another film about the horrific murders, The Haunting of Sharon Tate which was released earlier this year. Tate did not believe the movie did her sister justice and found the premise and circumstances to be upsetting. “It doesn’t matter who it is acting in it – it’s just tasteless,” said Tate. “It’s classless how everyone is rushing to release something for the 50th anniversary of this horrific event.”
However, Tate did give her blessing to Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood. According to Vanity Fair, Tarantino showed Tate the script shortly before it was completed to get her thoughts on her sister's portrayal. Though the movie is largely a work of fiction, Tate believed that it finally told the truth in a way that other movies about her sister did not. In previous attempts to tell Sharon Tate's story, her life is lost in the curiosity of her death. "She was so sweet and so kind, intelligent, and lighter than the air in every way...and Margot did a beautiful job at portraying that," Tate told Vanity Fair.