The Haunting of Molly Hartley
Late October begs for the release of yet another teen-oriented horror movie, and 2008 is no exception. The Haunting of Molly Hartley attempts to put the chills into adolescents as they sift through this dismal tale of a high school senior -- Molly (Haley Bennett) -- who was stabbed by her delusional mother and now appears to have inherited her mom's collection of mental illnesses. Her father (Jake Weber), hoping to improve the situation, moves his daughter to another home and puts her in a new private school (for many teens, a terrifying event in itself).
But of course the problems don't end there. Molly still suffers from dreams and hallucinations, not to mention occasional nosebleeds, which does nothing to help her fit in. At first her only friend is an overly enthusiastic Christian (Shanna Collins), but eventually she attracts the gaze of Joseph (Chace Crawford), a young man willing to overlook all of her problems. Also trying to help the girl work through her paranoia is the school psychiatrist, Dr. Emerson (Nina Siemaszko).
Sadly a "good" horror film is difficult to find, and this poor attempt relies on cheap "made-you-jump" setups and spooky scenarios that make those talking skulls on your neighbor's Halloween doorstep appear more frightening. The performances are lacking, the musical score overdone, and the script is full of over-exaggerated stereotypes, like spoiled rich kids and the aforementioned religious zealots.
While the violence is plentiful and includes some blood effects resulting from hand-to-hand struggles and weapons use, it falls just short of explicit to ensure ratings that will allow the target audience to attend. However, the biggest concern for parents is an implied teen suicide that can't be taken with the same tongue-in-cheek attitude as the rest of this drivel. The portrayal of a brutal car crash which opens the film and a party scene depicting teens drinking alcohol are not laughing matters either. Language includes moderate and mild profanities, terms of deity and a single sexual expletive.
Families may also be disturbed by themes that dabble in darker matter and have the potential to raise curiosity in the occult. This is especially true when these powerful forces appear to promote positive outcomes to negative decisions. In the end, what started off as a popcorn-munching, b-rate horror flick turns into a more serious study of satanic topics that might give viewers even more reasons to squirm in their seats.