Chances are if you clicked onto this review, it was either by accident, or you’re hoping that The Haunting of Molly Hartley is the one halfway decent horror movie that gets released by a major studio over the course of a decade. If the latter is your reason, then I’m sorry to tell you that you’re pretty far from the pack because The Haunting of Molly Hartley will most assuredly not reinvigorate your faith in the genre. Then again, maybe you have a funny group of friends and you enjoy watching shitty movies with them. If that’s the case, you have struck gold, because Molly Hartley is begging for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment.
This is as good a time as any for a plot synopsis, but this is easily omitted, mainly because the plot is so completely disposable. Upon reconsidering, I realized I might technically be required to give some sort of outline, so here goes: Ignoring a ham-fisted introductory sequence that blatantly foreshadows the real story to follow, The Haunting of Molly Hartley pretty much tells the story of the movie’s title. Molly (Haley Bennett) is a teenager traumatized by her mother’s recent attempt to murder her. Her father (Jake Weber, lending the movie it’s only shred of competence) decides to enroll her in a new school, where she quickly becomes entrenched in the lives of every high school stereotype in cinematic history. There’s the crazy religious fundamentalist (Shanna Collins), the edgy rebellious girl (Shannon Marie Woodward), the handsome jock (Chace Crawford, and that spelling of “Chase” can’t possibly be legal), and the bitchy popular girl (AnnaLynne McCord), all of whom are supremely interested in Molly, despite the fact that Bennett does everything in her power to make Molly as boring as possible.
So where’s all this haunting that’s promised in the title, one might ask. Well, in addition to the still fresh shock of her mother’s stabbing her, Molly is plagued by voices that do little else other than say her name over and over again. It’s difficult to tell if we in the audience are supposed to know that the voices are saying “Molly,” but it’s not terribly difficult to figure out. Either way, it takes an already cheap horror gimmick and drains whatever dread was left out of it. I mean, really, why not just have the ghosts whisper “We are haunting you” repeatedly? There would be no noticeable net loss in subtlety.
Oh, and each of these hauntings is followed by a mild nosebleed. As you can imagine, it’s also not scary.
Generally though, director Mickey Liddell’s idea of putting his stamp on the horror genre is to take your most obvious of shock cues and add a few seconds to it. Molly is looking in the mirror and ominous strings begin to rise. She opens the medicine cabinet to get her medication and when she closes it….it’s still just her in the mirror and the ominous strings are gone. Five to ten seconds go by, and then the rotting corpse we were expecting earlier appears in the mirror. Not to be repetitive, but this too fails to be frightening.
In case you’re not getting the picture at this point, The Haunting of Molly Hartley is an utter failure as a horror movie. The acting ranges from merely competent to terrible, the script is little more than a list of stock possession movie clichés arranged in a predictable row, and the twist ending(s) appears to have been tacked on hurriedly by a screenwriter trying to meet a deadline. So unless you’ve never seen a horror movie before, or are almost psychotically excitable, behave like everyone else in America when The Haunting of Molly Hartley was released and pretend it doesn’t exist.