This is what it's come to, kids. You keep shelling out money to see stinky PG-13 horror films that you KNOW are gonna suck, and guess what? Hollywood responds to your support by making more of them.
The Haunting of Molly Hartley represents the nadir of by-the-numbers filmmaking, having been produced as cheaply, generically, and quickly as possible, all on the cynical assumption that as long as there were a couple of "jump" moments in the trailers, people would see it.
And they were probably right. Thanks to a Halloween release date and a spooky title, Molly Hartley made $13.5 million at the box office -- a terrible haul by regular standards but probably more than enough in this case, since the film (with no major stars or dazzling special effects) couldn't have cost much to make.
It stars Haley Bennett as the titular teenage girl, who has just moved to a new town after an unfortunate incident involving her mother trying to stab her to death with a pair of scissors. Mom's in the nut hatch now, but Molly keeps having hallucinations of her. She wonders if she's going crazy just like dear old Mom did.
At her new school, she meets a dreamy rich kid named Joseph (Chace Crawford, from Gossip Girl), who's very nice to her, much to the consternation of his mean ex-girlfriend, Suzie (AnnaLynne McCord). There's also a kooky Christian girl, Leah (Shanna Collins), continuing the long tradition of movies portraying all religious people as dour, joyless nut jobs. At one point she talks Molly into a hasty baptism on the grounds that Molly needs saving but quick. (Spoiler: It doesn't work.)
This mix of religion and insanity and supernatural creepiness never amounts to anything -- the film is an 84-minute bore. The ending, which was baffling and ambiguous in the theater, remains just as useless on DVD.
Speaking of the DVD, it's as bare-boned and skimpy as a movie this generic deserves. Apart from the theatrical trailer, the only extra is a series of clips of Bennett, Collins, McCord, and director Mickey Liddell talking about what drew them to the film. These clips total only 6 1/2 minutes and are full of the usual vague, vacuous generalities.
A quote that I think sums it all up is Liddell explaining his interest in this kind of thriller: "I loved all those movies of the '70s, like ... the ... um ... you know ... Carrie and ... um ... The Shining [which was 1980], and Rosemary's Baby [which was 1968], and The Exorcist, and The Omen." This is a man who knew he was going to be on camera, and who even had control over what questions he was asked, and this is how prepared he is. Nice going.
For what it's worth, the DVD transfer and audio channels are all top-notch. If you ignore my advice and watch the film, you'll be bored and annoyed, but at least the movie would look and sound good. But don't do that. Skip it.
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Eric D. Snider (website) wrote a film called The Mauling of Holly Martley.