90210 or The Omen IV crossed with The O.C., The Haunting of Molly Hartley is horror of the glossiest, safest kind. It's a boring bubblegum shocker that loses its flavor faster than Fruit Stripes, and few horror fans will want anything to do with this over-polished, under-baked tale of a high-school girl attempting to discover whether she's the "devil's daughter," or her dangerously unstable mother is just another religious wacko.
Molly Hartley (Haley Bennett) is about to turn 18, but despite the fact that she's got the skin of a Noxema model and has just enrolled in an exclusive private school, her life is far from perfect. Her mother (Marin Hinkle) was recently institutionalized after attempting to "save" Molly from eternal damnation with a pair of especially sharp scissors, leaving the confused teen and her concerned father (Jake Weber) to try and start life anew in another town. But the facts that she's having a rough time adjusting to her new school and her mother is locked up in a mental institution on the edge of town aren't the only things worrying Molly; in addition to being haunted by visions of her murderous mother and hearing voices calling out to her from the beyond, Molly's also become a target of one of the popular girls at school thanks to her burgeoning friendship with the popular Joseph Young (Chace Crawford). Meanwhile, Bible-thumping outcast Alexis (Shanna Collins) seems intent on converting Molly to Christianity, and her level-headed guidance counselor insists that Molly's strange hallucinations are nothing more than the result of her recent trauma. As Molly's visions grow more intense with each passing day, she's forced to consider the prospect that her fate was sealed the day she was born.
Though on the surface The Haunting of Molly Hartley poses itself as a brooding supernatural thriller about a young girl wrestling with weighty issues of religion and salvation, it merely pays lip service to these heady concepts, striving mainly to make the viewer jump as many times as possible as it winds to its laughable, ludicrous conclusion (an ending that seems hastily executed in order to get to the bouncy tweener pop song that graces the end credits before the crowd leaves the theater). This is a prime example of horror conceived by people who don't know the genre, for people who don't like horror films. Practically nothing here is interesting, involving, or new, and, worst of all, it isn't even entertaining as pure kitsch. Some horror fans hate any fright film that sports less than an R rating by default, and while this particular reviewer is of the opinion that a good film can still scare without going overboard on the violence and gore (see Night of the Eagle, The Haunting, or Poltergeist), The Haunting of Molly Hartley is precisely the kind of overly slick PG-13 product that feeds into such cinematic prejudice, and cheapens the entire genre in the eyes of mainstream moviegoers. leave a comment --Jason Buchanan