Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Haley Bennett, Jake Weber, Chace Crawford, Shanna Collins, Shannon Marie Woodward, Annalynne McCord, Nina Siemaszko
Directed by Mickey Liddell
Every time I saw a preview for this film I couldn’t help but think how much it looked and sounded like one of those 1970’s made-for-TV satanic panic horror movies, the sort that would have starred the likes of Pamela Sue Martin. Even the title – The Haunting of Molly Hartley – sounds like a title worthy of 1970’s made-for-TV horror movie.
And now that I’ve seen it I’m fully convinced the producers just found a 30-year old screenplay laying around for such a TV movie and decided to repackage it as a big screen release aimed at tweener girls still too young to be watching those sexually-charged CW Network teen programs yet are starting to get too old for the wholesomeness of Hannah Montana and think they’re just too much of a fashionista to go emo. It’s even shot like a made-for-cable television movie which only adds to the disbelief I have as to how this film ended up at a theater near you in the first place.
Ladies and gentlemen, The Haunting of Molly Hartley is a comically overwrought tour-de-force cliché-a-thon. This is epic, folks! The director – by god he was determined to make something out of nothing. Hallucinations on top of dream sequences. Dream sequences on top of ominous music. Ominous music on top of loud crashing sounds. Loud crashing sounds on top of constant jump scares. Nobody can just enter a scene without it resulting in a jump scare; everyone has to sneak up on Molly to the sound of a loud crash. I clocked three fake jump scares in under a minute early on. Almost every last one of these jump scares are nothing more than mundane happenings with their audio amplified to jolt you. This is a movie that features a cheap attempt at a jump scare in which the mailman putting mail through the front door mail slot resulted in what sounded like a gunshot.
Now how cliché does the half-baked script get?
For starters, Molly’s very first day of class at a fancy prep school, what’s being taught in literature class? Milton’s Paradise Lost. Ever notice how in horror movies students are always studying something in school with some thematic relevance to the plot of the film? It’s never something more innocuous like Jane Austin or Encyclopedia Brown. A Zac Efron-ish rich boy takes an immediate liking to Molly because, well, that’s what’s required by the cliché script. Just like it’s required by the laws of clichédom that he have a bitchy blonde girlfriend who isn’t happy about this strange new girl garnering the attention of her man.
So what’s haunting Molly Hartley? Are there supernatural forces at work? Is she becoming a paranoid schizophrenic like her mom who is now in an insane asylum after having stabbed Molly in the stomach with a pair of scissors claiming to have been trying to save her from the forces of evil? Or could it be that benign tumor in her sinus cavity causing all the visions, voices, headaches, and nose bleeds? Here’s some hints: she’s not crazy, the pre-title sequences showed us another parent going to outlandish lengths to murder their teen daughter in order to save her from turning 18 and falling into unholy hands, and, most obviously, Hollywood does not make movies about people being traumatized by supernatural forces that turn out to be figments of the imagination brought on by nasal growths.
If you watched a movie like The Entity and at the end it turned out there was no poltergeist raping her, that it was all psychosomatic brought on as the result of ovarian cysts, you’d be pissed.
Simply say the name “Jesus” around Molly Hartley and she starts experiencing bad headaches. Have a religious discussion and she experiences a full blown panic attack accompanied by nose bleeds and occult visions. Cue the Jesus freak classmate (played by an actress who bares a resemblance to a young Pamela Bellwood, who I can guarantee you would have played the role in the 1970’s TV version) who believes Molly’s troubles can be cured with a good old fashioned baptism. Because devout Christians in movies are always portrayed as somewhat crazed or sinister, you just know this young church girl is going to turn out to be several Jesuses short of a Holy Trinity, if you catch my drift.
Technically speaking, there is no actual haunting of Molly Hartley. Little of what’s happening to her has any rhyme or reason behind it. Satan, as it turns out, has a community outreach program in place with demonic women that show up in restaurant bathrooms to make infernal pacts with despondent parents who have just given birth to a still born baby right then and there. Make the deal and they’ll get 18-years with their child, but on their 18th birthday the child will become an agent of Satan – or at the very least, class valedictorian from hell. How or why this causes Molly to suffer from all manner of headaches, weird visions, nightmares, nose bleeds, etc is anyone’s guess. Maybe all that nonsense leading up to her climactic unholy intervention was caused by that sinus tumor after all.
Oh my god, The Haunting of Molly Hartley is so lame. So stunningly lame! So astoundingly lame! So impossibly lame! So gloriously lame that I almost want to recommend it. Almost. Almost. Almost. I cannot do so yet I cannot help but smile when thinking about this turkey. Mail delivery jump scares, full-contact baptisms, satanic guidance counselors, gripping endoscopic nasal surgery scenes, toilet-clogging burritos, and how can I ever forget the triumphant moment when Molly yells at her disbelieving dad, “You have to do something! Tomorrow’s my fucking birthday!”
2 1/2 out of 5 (for all the wrong reasons)
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