I always look forward to watching a spooky film on Halloween, but The Haunting of Molly Hartley left me as disappointed as a youngster who receives a box of raisins at every house on his/her trick-or-treat route. The movie’s emphasis on images of an insane-looking mother makes it more annoying than scary, and suspense takes a back seat to a ridiculous story about what horrors might befall a teen on her 18th birthday.
Molly (Haley Bennett) faces more than the usual problems that go along with attending a new high school. Plagued by visions of her frantic mother (Marin Hinkle) -- who recently stabbed her in the chest -- the disturbed teenager also experiences nose bleeds and headaches. Her father (Jake Webber) constantly reminds Molly her mom can’t hurt her anymore because she’s locked away in a nearby mental institution.
Molly’s new friends and acquaintances help or hinder her in various clichéd situations, such as a party with no parents at home, bullying by classmates, and so forth. Fellow students Joseph (Chace Crawford), Alexis (Shanna Collins) and Leah (Shannon Marie Woodward) appear to offer assistance while Suzie (AnnaLynn McCord) exudes the obligatory “mean girl” vibes. And the school’s guidance counselor (Nina Siemaszko) gives Molly her phone number to call if she needs to talk about her problems. But who are Molly’s real friends and enemies? If you can’t figure that out by the middle of the movie, you’ve been watching too many episodes of Heroes on TV.
Although most of the performances fail to ring true here, Woodward (from television’s wonderful but now cancelled The Riches) excels as Leah, a cynical teen with serious parental issues. And Crawford (from television’s Gossip Girl) shows the potential for leading-man roles in other films. He displays big-screen charisma and is quite easy on the eye.
What about thrills and scares in The Haunting of Molly Hartley? Hmm. I think a few sound effects are surprising and loud enough to cause you to sit up and take notice -- but that’s about all.
And so, dear reader, don’t say I didn’t warn you about this one. (Capsule review)
(Released by Freestyle Releasing and rated “PG-13” for strong thematic material, violence & terror, brief strong language and some teen drinking.)