Haunting of Molly Hartley, The (2008)

The Haunting of Molly Hartley review!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?

The Haunting of Molly Hartley review!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.

The Haunting of Molly Hartley review!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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  • Spaceshark

    I score it five because Chace is hot.

  • Mr. Dark

    A site I visit (www.othercrap.com, highly recommended) mentioned that this was a tweener remake of ‘To The Devil…A Daughter’. I wonder if that’s actually true? If so, then Foy nailed it, it’s a 30 year old script. (And without a naked teenage Natasia Kinski.)

    Mr. Dark
    Part-Time Dread Central Gaming Guy
    Full-Time Freelance Smartass

  • PelusaMG

    This is a review of two halves… The first part (i.e the review itself) is where you basically rip the film a new one and write it off as a pile of unimaginative, cliche-ridden turd… Fair enough! But then there’s the second part (i.e the score) where you award the film two and a half knives! That’s a pretty descent score for a film you say is, ‘Lame. So stunningly lame! So astoundingly lame! So impossibly lame’, and one you would not recommend people to see.

    I have not seen the film but I would argue that two and half knives (50% – average) amounts to some sort of recommendation. It certainly suggests that the film is not as bad as the review makes it out to be.

    Based on your review Foy, I was expecting “The Haunting of Molly Hartley” to be awarded one, maybe half a knife at the most!

    In order to attain some degree of consistency (comparing apples to apples shall we say), does the DC rating system need some sort of overhaul/revision, or at least some sort of guidelines for defining what makes a movie/book worthy of x number of knives, other than the subjective feelings of the reviewer?

    This movie might be techincally competent, so might have been given two and half knives because of that, but that rating is only really useful to someone attending film school, and not your average movie goer who will generally judge films on their entertainment value.

    The bottom line is this: What exactly are these reviews reviewing, and how does this equate to the movies/books ratings system you have in place at the moment? I, for one, am a little bemused by it all at the moment…

    • Foywonder

      I thought it was a fairly consistent review. I said flatout that the movie was was incredibly lame yet I couldn’t help but be entertained by the sheer badness of it. I was never bored and I found entertainment value in this crap, not enough to whole-heartedly recommend it – as I outright state – but enough to give it 2 1/2 knives. This is one of those movies where the entertainment value comes from laughing at it for all the wrong reasons. I suppose I could have done what I’ve done in the past giving the film two seperate scores as I’ve done a few times in the past – a really low one for the actual quality and a higher one for unintentional comedy value – but instead I decided to just split the difference. You can live with it.

      Why do I suddenly feel like Nomad.