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Film Review: The Haunting of Molly Hartley

MOLLY HARTLEY still 

From the studio that brought the world “In the Name of the King” and “Dragon Wars” comes “The Haunting of Molly Hartley.” Perhaps Freestyle Releasing isn’t concerned with producing a competent film for their growing library of titles, which makes their latest effort quite a rousing success. A high school drama with colorless demonic overtones, “Hartley” is a last-minute Halloween stab at box office gold and a resoundingly idiotic one at that.

A new face at a private school, Molly Hartley (Haley Bennett, “Music and Lyrics”) is having trouble fitting in, battling headaches, nosebleeds, and mysterious voices on a daily basis. With her father (Jake Weber) pushing medicinal solutions, Molly is more concerned with her psychotic mother, who rots away inside a local mental hospital and haunts the frightened girl’s every step. Trying to adapt to her environment, Molly finds comfort with friends both born-again (Shanna Collins) and Juno-like (Shannon Marie Woodward), the school counselor (Nina Siemaszko), and flirty dreamboat Joseph (Chace Crawford). Just finding her stride, Molly’s life is swept away by madness when she learns the horrifying truth behind her upcoming 18th birthday.

“Hartley” is such an impossibly goofy motion picture that it almost defies explanation. Whatever tone of dread director Mickey Liddell was aiming for here has missed its mark by a country mile. Instead the picture is an amateurish mess, trying desperately to hold together a narrative that feels as though it was cut in half, fighting to appear scary with all the bloodshed removed to keep a PG-13 rating, and spotlighting a cast of young actors who don’t have any business being in front of a camera. How this clumsy picture actually found a theatrical release is baffling. Then again, Crawford is the star of “Gossip Girl,” the much buzzed-about show nobody actually watches, and he remains front page news on several character-assassinating celebrity blogs. Too bad his acting skills make Zac Efron look like Lee Strasberg’s T.A.

“Hartley” doesn’t make much sense when the film finally reveals itself in full, but why should it have to? After all, there’s no pass at a story here, just a series of loosely connected boo scares from a director who must be under the assumption the audience has never seen a horror film before. Even the simple act of mail delivery receives its own booming sound effect. The endless buffet of cheap jolts is merely covering up the ludicrousness of the plot, which Liddell has no idea how to package properly into a blistering, end-of-days fright fest. Instead the staging is straight out of community theater, the wild plot twists lack any reasonable setup, and the conclusion of this relentlessly silly movie is bizarrely pro-evil. Hooray?

When it comes to excruciating Halloween activities, I think I’d prefer a Milky Way/razor blade surprise to this asinine, pathetic motion picture.

D-


MOLLY HARTLEY

Comments

Ziegler

It was bad... But it wasn't that bad.

Candice Boule

i hated this movie! thank for mentioning the mail delivery scare, that was awful.

i think you're going to have a bunch of guys coming here to defendt the hot girls in the movie. girls wil come to defend Chace.

you're screwed either way.

thanks for the awesome review!

DON'T SEE THIS MOVIE!!!

Michael

"Too bad his acting skills make Zac Efron look like Lee Strasberg’s T.A."

You were just praising Efron in your review of "High School Musical 3" last week. Change of opinion, perhaps.

And by the way, while "Gossip Girl" isn't that big of a ratings grabber, it is a good show. I mean, for a CW show, there's a collection of good actors. Blake Lively is sort of going through the notions of pouting lately (making her transition to a "villain" wince-inducing), but I'm still holding out. Meanwhile Leighton Meester needs a damn movie career like NOW-ish.

Michael Wistner

"You were just praising Efron in your review of "High School Musical 3" last week. Change of opinion, perhaps."

Just read that review and I didn't see any outright kudos.

What are you talking about?

Katie

GREAT HALLOWEEN FILM!
I thought this movie was decent! There were lots of scary moments and my family really liked it.

pam/oct31, 2008

People....Get serious. These are up and comming stars. Haley bennett did a great job in this role and the movie had me on the edge of my seat. I loved the chemisrty between her and chace. Give this movie a chance!!

Michael

"Just read that review and I didn't see any outright kudos.

What are you talking about?"

Quote: "(Chace Crawford's) acting skills make Zac Efron look like Lee Strasberg’s T.A." So that means Efron isn't a good actor after all, but Crawford makes him look good in comparison.

"People....Get serious. These are up and comming stars. Haley bennett did a great job in this role and the movie had me on the edge of my seat. I loved the chemisrty between her and chace. Give this movie a chance!!"

Have you read the reviews across the board? And the Razzies have a discussion board dedicated to this.

Michael R. Allen

I cannot believe that no one has given the ending the once over. The film, at least kept together on some level initially, but completely falls apart in the final few minutes. A pretty bad movie overall even for a first time director.
-Mike
www.28dayslateranalysis.com

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