I've told some people that I have been lucky so far, that 2009 seems like it is going to be a good year since I haven't really seen anything that terrible. Well, seems like I spoke too soon, the production outfit that brought us "Dragon Wars" brings a teen drama/occult thriller in "The Haunting of Molly Hartley". I should have known better, sure it's not the worst film I‘ve ever seen, but it does come very close.
Molly Hartley (pretty Haley Bennett) is a 17-year old who has experienced significant trauma in her life; her own mother tried to kill her before her 18th birthday. Now, relocated to a neighboring town with her dad (Jake Weber), Molly tries to fit in a new high school. He battles headaches and nosebleeds, voices in her head, the usual teenage issues and major concerns about her psychotic mother. She finds a small amount of comfort in religious Alexis (Shanna Collins) and bad girl Leah (Shannon Marie Woodward), the school psychiatrist (Nina Siemaszko) and finds puppy love with campus hunk Joseph (Chace Crawford). Molly's 18th birthday is looming, and she begins to fear what is going to happen--apparently, a parent killing his daughter before she turns 18 is pretty common.
The film does begin in a decent manner, a father killing his daughter for an unspecified reason save for her approaching 18th birthday managed to grab my attention. Then, the film just goes downhill from there. The teen drama that follows just lost me, the film definitely took its time and the proceedings almost stops to a crawl. There are some cheap scares whenever Molly dreams and hallucinates, but none that really made me jump from my seat. Wow! This was the first time that mail delivery was used to induce a cheap jolt! The Upcoming birthday thing is abandoned for a stretched out script, and never generated a feeling of dread. The film relies on some attempts at character development that proved useless and dry. Elements were introduced, but none of them were fully fleshed out; the script was a mess and never reinforced its main concept.
Ok, I managed to sit through it to find out exactly what was going to happen, well, nothing much. The final act is just an overload of demonic overtones, but none of it gave the film narrative impact. There were attempts to cover up the weaknesses of its plot by inserting scenes of potential thrills in the final act, but it just didn't work since it was backed up by the screenplay. When the satanic conspiracy and manipulations were revealed, none of it proved interesting since you can see it coming a mile away and its twists is just so perfunctory, made worse with the lack of a great set up. Director Mickey Liddell seemed very lost in the techniques of effective horror, and it was obvious that he had no idea on how to build a story around potential Armageddon.
The one good thing about the film is Haley Bennett, she is remarkably charming although lacking in acting ability. I do give her the benefit of a doubt since this script is a total mess, and even an A-list actress would be lost in it. Teenage girls would swoon over Chace Crawford from "Gossip Girl" (my lady friends did) and it's just too bad his acting doesn't match his supposed good looks. Jake Weber was decent, but not exactly convincing, no doubt because of the idiotic script. The rest of the cast was so wooden and lacked emotion.
Wow, I can't remember the last time I felt bored by a horror film. "The Haunting of Molly Hartley" had potential, but it misses its dreadful tone by a lot. The film turned out ludicrous, and I would have preferred a more "filled" out 18th birthday than an ending that looked lifted from "Legally Blond". Did they think that this would be successful enough to spawn a sequel? What the heck were the filmmakers behind this film thinking--underestimating the tastes of horror fans??
Skip It. [1 Star]
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