Before I even hit play on this film, I had some pre-conceived assumptions about what this was going to be. There are certain factors here that serve as potential warning signs. Those factors are: teenagers, high school, and PG-13. When these things are associated with the horror genre, things have the potential to go bad. PG-13 high school horror films are typically very cliché, full of “pretty faces” instead of good actors, and lots of poor dialogue. The Haunting of Molly Hartley isn’t the worst of this type of horror, but it certainly doesn’t break the teenage horror stereotype.
The film opens with a teenage girl and her boyfriend getting interrupted by her father. Her father appears to be a religious zealot, and attempts to kill his daughter on the drive home, claiming that he can’t let her turn 18 because “they will come for her”. This was in 1997, skip to present day (2008) and we are introduced to Molly Hartley, who is attending her first day at a new prep school. Both her and her father have had very trouble pasts, but they’re trying to start fresh and put it all behind them.
But of course that doesn’t happen, because we wouldn’t have a film if it did. No, instead of things improving, Molly hears things like her mother’s voice, and experiences extreme panic attacks. The big question of the film is why Molly is going through this and what the father in the beginning means by “they’re coming for you”.
The performances given are overall just alright but to be perfectly honest the cast isn’t given a whole lot of great material to work with. Haley Bennett does the best she can with what she’s given. She reacts appropriately when she needs to be scared or freaked out, and that’s about all the script calls for her character to be. Chace Crawford is good most of the time, although there is one scene at the end where he was confusingly lifeless. His character could’ve been more impactful to the story, and I’m not sure why they didn’t make better use of him. Jake Weber plays Molly’s father and gives a pretty good performance. I would’ve preferred to see more of Joseph (Crawford’s character) with Molly, instead of her father because I think that would’ve been more interesting. AnnaLynne McCord was pretty bad, plays the stereotypical high school bitchy character that’s jealous of the new girl. Not only was she bad, but her character is pretty pointless, and brings nothing of any importance to the story.
Shanna Collins is really good for the most part as Alexis. She plays a somewhat creepy religious girl that quickly befriends Molly and is always trying to “save her”, in a Christian sense that is. Her character is utilized well, I really enjoyed the direction they took her in. The story and explanations turn out to be rather interesting, but they needed to be fleshed out better, explored deeper. We only get a little taste of the sinister plot against Molly, and I think the film would’ve worked better if they would’ve given us more of that. The dialogue is pretty mediocre, very by the numbers. There are scenes where I felt like something really interesting was about to happen between two characters, but then it just cuts away and I’m left wondering why they’d give up a good opportunity.
The main issue with The Haunting of Molly Hartley is that it’s simply way too safe and by the numbers. I’m not saying there needed to be more blood and shocking material, but there was a deficiency to both the story and character development. There are only a couple characters that are the least bit interesting and other ones (like Crawford’s character) could’ve been utilized so much better. Because of this, I can’t recommend this film, there are so many better installments in this genre. It certainly isn’t the worst, but it’s not that good either.
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