THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY (2008)
Starring Haley Bennett, Chace Crawford, Shannon Marie Woodward, Shanna Collins, AnnaLynne McCord, Marin Hinkle, Nina Siemaszko, Josh Stewart, Randy Wayne, John Newton, Jessica Lowndes and Jake Weber.
Screenplay by John Travis and Rebecca Sonnenshine.
Directed by Mickey Liddell.
Distributed by Freestyle Releasing. 86 minutes. Rated PG-13.
The title The Haunting of Molly Hartley is rather misleading. There are no ghosts here, though the film tries to tease you for a while that maybe they are lurking just out of sight. (We hear lots of whispering voices, see occasional sudden movements off to the side and… well, that’s about it, actually.)
You see, Molly Hartley is concerned with an entirely different scope of the supernatural. It actually has much more in common with Rosemary’s Baby than The Sixth Sense – though as a movie it is certainly not nearly as good as either of those titles.
However, if you ever wondered what Rosemary’s Baby would look like if it were made for MTV – without the scares but with heaping loads of gorgeous teens wallowing in angst – then perhaps The Haunting of Molly Hartley is the film for you. Most other people will probably be rather underwhelmed by it, though.
Molly Hartley is a new girl in a tony, exclusive private school. She is beautiful, she is smart (a 4.0 GPA, as one character points out for no particular reason), she lives in a house to die for, the local BMOC (Chace Crawford) already has set his sights on her – and yet she harbors a deep, dark secret.
Her mother is a religious fanatic – another pit stop in the once-promising career of actress Marin Hinkle, who was so beautiful and neurotic as Sela Ward’s sister on the turn-of-the-millennium TV drama Once and Again. Mom recently tried to stab Molly to death with a pair of scissors.
Her mother has been committed and her dad (Jake Weber of TV’s Medium) has moved the family to a new, spectacular town, but Molly is becoming convinced that she too may be losing her mind, just like mom. This is mostly because she has bad dreams, periodic panic attacks, nose bleeds and often hears strange voices whispering her name.
Is she haunted? Is she crazy?
We know something more than that is going on because the film has a prologue from ten years earlier which echoes many of the same problems which Molly is now fighting… and therefore saps most of the suspense as to the fragility of Molly’s mental health.
The lead character is played by Haley Bennett – who was so good in Music and Lyrics and even brought a little temporary pulse and heartbeat to the otherwise just awful College. Here, sadly, she seems a little resigned to the fact that she is in a bit of a turkey. I know her character’s numbness is supposed to be because she is depressed and fears for her sanity, but Bennett seems not so much despondent as disinterested.
Since little of consequence happens as far as horror, the writers bolster the story with a bunch of pretty standard high school soap opera clichés. There is the rich handsome guy who likes Molly, the bitchy cheerleader ex-girlfriend who wants to make her life hell, the just-a-bit-too-understanding guidance counselor, the rebellious cute girl who becomes Molly’s friend and the Jesus freak who tries to convert her.
The film climaxes with one of the most subdued showdowns between good and evil ever – a rather predictable, obvious and entirely too civilized dénouement that saps the final plot “twist” of all its intended power.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 14, 2009.