November 4, 2008

Movie Review: The Haunting of Molly Hartley

mollyhartley2_largeWhen is a haunting not a haunting? Give up? When it's The Haunting of Molly Hartley! Get it? I know, I know, not very funny. If you thought that little joke at the movie's expense wasn't funny, just imagine what awaits inside the darkened theater. Considering I was going in with rather low expectations to begin with, not to have those met must mean this was a pretty bad movie. Oh, it's bad all right. It is almost as if the writers liked the show Reaper and wanted to see if they could make it as a "serious" movie. The answer to that challenge is emphatically NO! Or at least these guys cannot make it a good movie.

haunting-molly-hartley-9The film opens in the past, a teenage girl is meeting up with her boyfriend in an old cabin where she is surprised by her father. Daddy puts her in his truck and then proceeds to ramble on about how she cannot turn 18 and that she has to die. This pre-credit sequence is the most exciting thing about this movie, unless you count the moment the closing credits begin to role.

Now, the biggest problem with The Haunting of Molly Hartley, well maybe not the biggest but one that definitely needs to be addressed, is the fact there really is no haunting taking place. When a movie has the word "haunting" in it, there better well be a haunting taking place. This movie is more about mental illness and religious fanaticism. There are a couple of times when the supernatural is alluded to, with the first couple being delivered in a way that mental illness and religion could be seen as the backbone as opposed to a ghost or some such. The only time that the supernatural really comes into play is the finale, which is presented in a way that that defies logic. It is like the writers decided they wanted the movie to end here, regardless of what may be left to tell and the only way to end was rely on convoluted supernatural nonsense, completely overshadowing the religious/mental nonsense that had come before.

haunting-molly-hartley-3Anyway, following the opening sequence we are introduced to Molly Hartley (Haley Bennett), she is a troubled teen looking to start over at a new school while her father (Jake Weber) does the best he can to help her keep moving forward. Molly is troubled by visions and hearing things and believes she is going insane like her mother, who had attempted to kill her and is now locked up in a mental hospital. At school, the class hunk (Chace Crawford) flirts with her and she is befriended by both an evangelical Christian (Shanna Collins) and the class outcast (Shannon Marie Woodward).

What follows is pretty standard teen drama. Outcasts seek a friend, new girl ties to fit in and pretend all is normal, school jock likes new girl, jock's ex-girlfriend is jealous, yadda, yadda, yadda. Every once in a while we get a nose bleed, some whispered voices, or a jump scare (I presume to make sure the audience is still awake). Nothing creepy, nothing scary, nothing interesting, blah, blah, blah.

haunting-molly-hartley-22As if the standard fare is not enough, none of it is written all that well. The dialogue is awkward, and characters occasionally appear only to be made fun of. The Christian character is set up to be a joke until the plot requres her to do something else. The ex-girlfriend character seems to be headed one way and ends up somewhere you would not expect to find her based on the presentation. The jock doesn't ask any of the right questions, and Molly, herself, does not seem to be too interested in listening to what anyone has to say.

Seriously, as the climax approaches and deep dark secrets are revealed, she acts completely irratonally. She is built up one way, but when the secret comes out, her character does a complete turn to the opposite direction. Just an example of poor writing in a film that was not completely thought out.

The acting doesn't help. Haley Bennett, who looks like a cross between a young Valerie Bertinelli and a young Jodie Foster while having the talent of neither (at least in this movie), leads the charge with her blank expressions while Chace Crawford has a look of permanent belwilderment on his face.

Bottomline. I guess I should have known better going in. Sadly, I always hope to be surprised and sometimes I am, this time I was not. Poorly written, acted, and conceived. The Haunting of Molly Hartley is just another bland excursion into teen-targeted "horror."

Not Recommended.

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