Movie Review: The Haunting of Molly Hartley (2008)
If a “Ten Commandments” existed for horror films, then the first commandment would no doubt be, “Thou Shalt Be Scary”. It becomes clear from what transpires in the 15 minutes-or-so opening sequence that The Haunting of Molly Hartley breaks that commandment. From that point on, it’s downhill all the way.
This movie is the latest in the “teens-in-peril” variety of horror film. The target audience is the youth crowd, and while teens will flock to see it, they will just as certainly walk away disappointed. The Haunting of Molly Hartley is one long pile up of every cliché known to horror fans, coupled with bad dialogue and a silly story line.
The unfortunate title character Molly Hartley (Haley Bennett) has moved to a new town with her father (Jake Weber) to get a fresh start in life following a devastating attack by her own mother who now resides in a mental institution. However, Molly’s troubles are just beginning. She hears voices and sees things that aren’t there. Her disbelieving and clueless father tries to smooth things over with sickening platitudes like, “It’s okay, honey. Everything is going to be okay. I’m here for you.” But everything isn’t going to be okay.
At school, things aren’t much better. Our heroine meets the usual cast of characters — a new boyfriend (Chace Crawford); a jealous, mean girl rival (AnnaLynne McCord); a concerned classmate who’s a religious fanatic (Shanna Collins); and a sympathetic counselor (Nina Siemaszko). It becomes apparent to her school mates pretty quickly that Molly is hiding something. It’s not long before the voices and the hallucinations become too much for her, and Molly is rushed to the hospital. It’s here that her strange behavior and symptoms are finally explained away — she’s suffering from some kind of nasal tumor. The tumor turns out to be a red herring, though, as Molly realizes that her real problems aren’t stuck up her nose.
The superficial attributes that signal that this is a horror film hang over the proceedings like a suffocating shroud — the relentlessly spooky film score that won’t let up, the whispering and echoing voices whirling through Molly’s head, and the percussive musical jolts every time someone unexpectedly jumps out at Molly or when she looks into a mirror only to see another reflection there besides her own. Enough, already. How about some truly scary stuff instead? And there lays the problem. Instead of scares we get yawns, and in the end, The Haunting of Molly Hartley turns out to be just another in the growing list of boring and inept horror films released this year.
The sheer silliness of this movie makes it hard for me to believe that some studio big wig actually green-lighted this project. Even in the worst movies, there’s usually some redeeming quality, though that isn’t the case here. I guess the lure of big bucks during the Halloween weekend was enough of an incentive to say yes to this embarrassing mess.
I racked my brain trying to find something scary in The Haunting of Molly Hartley and I realize now there is one. It occurs during the hospital scenes. Few things can be as disconcerting as waking up in a hospital to see a close up the face of a doctor who looks a bit too much like John McCain. And that, my friends, was the only truly horrifying moment in the entire film.
Molly is still haunting the theaters. Do yourself a favor and keep walking. Spend your hard earned cash elsewhere.