a critiQal film review The Haunting of Molly Hartley (2008)

  • DVD

Plot: Molly Hartley (Bennett) has moved to a new town to start fresh after her mother's psychotic break. On the eve of her 18th birthday, however, Molly starts being haunted by visions. Is she following in her mother's footsteps, or is something else at work?

561 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 48s)
  • ...a horror teen flick that does a good job of being scary without resorting to fistfuls of blood and gore, but wraps up badly in an ending that could have used a lot more work.

When I first heard about The Haunting Of Molly Hartley, I was rather underwhelmed. Since the preview made it seem like just another teen horror flick, it easily got lost amongst the throng that have been coming out lately. Still, I figured I’d add it my queue at Blockbuster.com and get around to seeing it eventually.

Instead, we happened to be at Blockbuster® the other day, and most of the new releases had already been taken, leaving the shelves rather empty. I saw that there were still copies of The Haunting Of Molly Hartley, so – while that made me question the decency of the film all over again – I decided to give it a try.

Would the rather slim pickings have been a boon, guiding me toward checking out an undiscovered gem – or should I have just stuck to watching “NCIS” (TV) reruns?

As the title character Molly, Haley Bennett, a rather unrecognizable face, steps into the foreground for the first time – and does a decent job with it. True, it’s not exactly Oscar®-caliber material, but she does a decent job of keeping the viewer interested. While she spends most of the film freaking out over little things, she has enough charm to get the viewers rooting for her, despite her rather frantic – and slightly annoying – panic attacks.

Chace Crawford, on the other hand, is nothing more than the “jock” of the film – one whose interest in Molly is apparent from the first scene. Their blossoming relationship is patently ridiculous – but nothing new for teen horror flicks. Apparently, puppy love is the strongest force on earth these days for teens, and forms long and lasting bonds. Silly, but mostly harmless for viewers.

One thing that can be said for The Haunting Of Molly Hartley – aside from it’s cast obviously trying their hardest – is the director’s knack for hooking the viewer’s attention. While most teen horror films these days resort to gore to freak out their audience, Molly Hartley is, for the most part, entirely gore free.

Instead of gore, director Mickey Liddell manages to up the tension through various tricks, which may seem rather see-through after the film, do their job in hooking the viewer and keeping the audience tuned in.

Unfortunately, while the director knows how to hook the viewer, he has yet to really learn how to tell a story. He manages to keep the film moving along, muddling the viewer’s reality so they hardly know what’s real and what isn’t – then abruptly he changes pace, wrapping things up in a way that – like the movie itself – seems incredibly disorienting, leaving the viewer with way too many unanswered questions.

Up until the resolution of the horror, however, the film is definitely worth checking out. While the ending may leave viewers puzzled and a bit disappointed, the buildup is very well done, and viewers will find themselves shaking off the lingering disorientation mindset the movie sets so well.

While the ending definitely needed a lot more work, the rest of the film should satisfy teens, while adults will appreciate the Rosemary’s Baby feel of the film. While it’s not perfect, at least The Haunting Of Molly Hartley is a nice change of pace when taken among the seemingly never-ending supply of gore-soaked, brainless, horror flicks.

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