THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY
*1/2 (out of 5)
October 31, 2008
Chace Crawford as JOSEPH YOUNG
Haley Bennett as MOLLY HARTLEY
Shannon Marie Woodward as LEAH
Shanna Collins as ALEXIS
AnnaLynne McCord as SUZIE
Studio: Freestyle Releasing
Directed by: Mickey Liddell
BY KEVIN CARR
Something scared me about “The Haunting of Molly Hartley” long before I ever walked into a theater to watch the film. That scary thing was how the movie was marketed.
I don’t hold anything against a smaller distribution company like Freestyle Releasing. These independent houses have been known to crank out some really neat films over the years. My concern came when I was given word that there will be no screenings of this movie anywhere. Large or small release, this is never a good sign.
I wouldn’t say that “The Haunting of Molly Hartley” isn’t terrible. It’s competently shot and looks professional. And even though Chace Crawford isn’t going to be winning any gold statuettes any time soon, the acting wasn’t too bad in the movie.
Still, the entire film had a distinct direct-to-DVD feel to it… or at least a distinct made-for-cable feel. In fact, with the exception of a well-placed f-bomb near the end of the movie, this flick could easily have found a home as a late-night screening on The N.
“The Haunting of Molly Hartley” isn’t as much a haunting as a death sentence. The film tells the story of a high school senior named Molly (Haley Bennett) whose mother tried to kill her by stabbing her in the chest with a pair of scissors. Molly survived, and her mother was institutionalized. After the dust settles, Molly and her father start over with a new job and a new school.
However, as Molly approaches her eighteenth birthday, she starts seeing visions of her mother and hearing voices. She also suffers from panic attacks and nightmares. Eventually, Molly learns that she is in immortal danger because of a desperate promise her parents made years ago.
I feel a bit awkward railing against this film because while it was playing out, things didn’t seem so bad. However, upon reflection, I really didn’t like the movie. It was as predictable as a professional wrestling match and had about as much passion as a drunken sloth.
Haley Bennett was able to hold her own to carry the movie, but the rest of the cast isn’t given much to work with. Even Shannon Marie Woodward, who is quite good in the television series “The Riches,” strolls through the movie without much interest.
I wouldn’t call “The Haunting of Molly Hartley” the “High School Musical” of horror movies. I suppose that distinction is held by other Disney Channel Original Movies like “Halloweentown” because they at least know and understand their own market.
Instead, “The Haunting of Molly Hartley” reminded me of the “Fear Street” series of books by R.L. Stine. These books were made for the teenage market, similar to how his “Goosebumps” series were geared for grade-schoolers. These books were terribly predictable with pretty flat characters. They served a purpose to get kids interested in reading, but they were still very basic formula fiction. This film feels like it was cut from the same cloth.
There’s no big surprises in the film, and the ending is incredibly soft. Throughout the show, there’s suggestions to a greater evil behind everything, and I suppose in the long run, that is the case. But this greater evil is so hands-off and laissez-faire that I can’t imagine it being all that evil to begin with.
I suppose the PG-13 crowd that can’t weasel their way into the latest “Saw” movie will have to settle on “Molly Hartley” this Halloween, and as a DVD it should do well at slumber parties. However, I can’t see the film scare up much of a fan base… or scare anything, for that matter.