on June 6, 2012
There is a reason this movie has nearly 40 reviewers and an average of 2.0 stars. I should have listened to what I read here. The movie is about a girl named Molly who has moved to a new town and school after her mother tried to kill her, because of something she did at her daughters birth. Molly befriends a religious nutcase and the attention of one of the guys in her class. She tries to adjust to her new school but she keeps freaking out from what looks like a trauma case from her past with her mother. By the end of the movie, not everything has been as it seems and the ending of the film is much like the opening 10 minutes... pointless and boring.
What you find out along the way becomes interesting, but the pay off doesn't build up any interest, and just leaves you thinking, "WTF was that?"... things make sense, and come together, but in a way that is disappointing and a waste of time. Had it had a better pay off, the film might have been ok, but what it is, is what it is, and it's a shame it's such a terrible ending.
Let's get a few things straight: Molly Hartley is not haunted.
Oh, she has her issues. She hears strange noises, has odd visions of murdered women, and comes saddled with a boatload of family dysfunction. But by the strict definition of actually being haunted, there's no spirits harassing poor Molly (Haley Bennett).
Her actual problem is a big spoiler, so I'll leave it simply that this movie isn't a ghost story but another movie form entirely, updated to take place in high school, when everyone is painfully hip, pretty, and gets what they deserve in the end.
Okay, not quite what they deserve. The Haunting of Molly Hartley is actually an anti-fundamentalist rant; it seems poor Hartley is the target of divinely-inspired assassins who believe she is the incarnation of evil that must be destroyed. One of them happens to be Molly's mother (Marin Hinkle), who was remanded to an insane asylum. Things go from bad to worse when Molly tries to start a new life in a new high school with her sad-sack father (Jake Weber).
Unfortunately for Molly, her high school seethes with stereotypes: The handsome jock who takes an inordinate interest in her (Chace Crawford); the queen bee who hates her; the rebel girl who allies with her. Notably, there isn't an unattractive soul in the bunch.
And that's the problem with a movie that has nothing to do with ghosts. Anyone expecting an actual haunting will be sorely disappointed by the somewhat mundane reality that at heart is every bad girl's dream: being badder than everybody else.
The Haunting of Molly Hartley uses random scares to substitute for actual horror, too-cool-for-school dialogue to make up for actual dialogue, and steals another plot entirely to make up for the distinct lack of spiritual activity. The real horror story here is high school, but the Haunting can't even get that right.
on August 5, 2014
If you find this in the Bargain Bin like I did, buy it. It's got a crisp and coherent look - everything from the school to supporting characters to even the town are clean and "preppy." Think of the way a SOAP opera looks: very serine, almost sterile. This setting adds to the dramatic tension because nothing looks wrong, but it is for the female protagonist. The only blemish in her flawless world are visions of her dirty, tormented mother.
I liked this aspect of the movie. The mother is very well realized and sticks out so much from the setting that she is quite jarring when she appears. I've seen plenty movies like this where a character is supposed to stand out, but doesn't because the tone familiarizes the character - well the High School drama / Soap Opera tone here, never acclimates to the mother. She's always the outsider, the specter who is constantly reminding you: something is terribly wrong here.
This is why I like dramas/ horror set in prep schools, because such schools are synonymous with wealth, privilege, astuteness, and isolation. At least in movies (I'm sure in reality its quite different), private schools are hidden away somewhere in a nice setting and attended by mostly well mannered students with a few misfits thrown in for realism. Usually there is a goth girl, a real popular arrogant girl, a creepy, girl, a boy who is the school heartthrob, and an over attentive staff, in their involvement anyways, but when it comes down to it, also withdrawn.
Here its kind of different because the protagonist qualifies as "the creepy girl," but much like Bella Swan, everyone still vies for her attention within a day of her starting classes. However, unlike Bella Swan, this character is at least pretty and has more dimension. I know everyone in the reviews is saying she was a stock "bitch" character, which at times I thought she was, but this girl really showed range in many of her scenes. She was called on to faint, and act panicked, act interested, but withdrawn to the male lead, and act "suspicious" at times herself and I think she did it beautifully. She really was interesting.
The story does fail at a horror movie, absolutely, there are hardly any scares, although, again, I'll give it to the mother, the way she kept attacking and it was real to Molly and eventually when she did, it was unreal to the audience, was pretty good suspense 101. I kept expecting her, but she never did when I expected it and since I knew she was a vision, when she turned up for real I acknowledged her until she didn't vanish and then I knew "holy ****," she's here!
Where the story succeeds is as a teen drama. You have a new student with a dark secreted past - you have a couple mean girls, you have a friend character with best friend potential who turns out to be a frenemy, a good looking - oddly concerned - male lead, and another friend character on the other side of the social wheel to force the protagonist to spin it.
Great! They could have named this movie "Molly's Mom Stabbed Her." and focused on the stabbing, the move, the delusion of more sinister doings and left it there because what they did was focus too much on the sinister doings and that aspect of the movie goes absolutely no where. To add insult to injury, the connection to Rose Mary's baby is made and there is no connection. In that movie (if its the one I'm thinking of), Rosemary is tricked into bearing the Devil's offspring, but the husband's involvement and the identity of the cult is far more detailed. In this one, a cult is hinted at, not defined, a new main bad guy is introduced, hastily outlined, but never defined, and the consequences for Molly are never explained.
The end does show Molly moving on from her parents, speaking at her Graduation, and heading off to The Prom with the male lead. This IS an ending - for a High School drama. In fact, if someone cut out the beginning scene and cut just when the mother dies and the father enters, to the fake at the Mental Institution and Molly says she has to leave her father to the graduation, to ending it as she heads off to the prom, this movie is a teenage drama and not a Horror movie at all.
I gave it pretty good stars because I liked it as a teen drama and I liked the crisp character design: everyone is easy on the eyes too. Watch it for the "Omg, Molly, you in trouble gir," moments, but disregard the Faustian backstory and you may even revisit this one.