Although the amount of teen horror films that have been produced has certainly declined in recent years, there's still the occasional entry in the genre, such as the lower-budget effort, "The Haunting of Molly Hartley", directed by debut filmmaker Mickey Liddell (previously a producer on "Go" and other films and TV shows.) While "Molly Hartley" certainly isn't great horror, it does have its moments.
The film stars Haley Bennett as the title character, a young woman who has nearly reached her 18th birthday. While that would be cause for celebration for most people her age, things are a little different for Molly: she hears voices and has headaches. There's also the matter of a dire warning from her mother (her mother tried to take Molly out of the picture entirely, then was locked up in an asylum) who seems to believe that turning 18 will be an unholy nightmare for her daughter.
Oddly enough, her mother knows this because it's...well, kinda the fault of her and Molly's father, which is explained later in the film. While Molly's father (Jake Weber) tries to smooth over Molly's fears, the voices and hallucinations continue to get worse. The movie does explore the possibility that Molly is having mental difficulties or a possible illness, but the story doesn't go too far down this path.
Again, the film's story certainly has potential, although the film doesn't match it: while there's some decent scares here-and-there, director Liddell goes for too many shaky-camera/shock-cord moments to spook the viewer instead of getting more creative with the scares, given the possibilities of the material. Maybe with a larger budget and a less restrictive rating (as well as a different filmmaker), this could have really been a much more engaging horror/drama.
There's also a bit of teen drama as Molly has a romantic interest in fellow student Joseph (Chace Crawford, of "Gossip Girl"), but the character remains bland and one-dimensional. The film also suffers a from a TV-movie style presentation and the PG-13 rating, which tones things down. The film does offer a few unexpected twists towards the last quarter, which did redeem the film a bit after a first half that could be rather slow at times.
The performances aren't anything noteworthy, but Bennett is reasonably good as the haunted teen, and the film wouldn't work as well as it does without her performance. Weber is decent as her father in a supporting effort, but it's not too much of a character.
Overall, while the film doesn't meet its potential, I didn't hate it - it certainly has its share of flaws (although the biggest of which is Liddell's repetitive approach to creating scares), but Bennett's performance works well enough and the film finally does start to get into gear (if not exactly high gear) in the last third. "Molly Hartley" is forgettable, but it's a bit better than some of the recent entries in the genre. Not a strong recommendation by any means, but those interested may want to try a rental.
VIDEO: "Haunting of Molly Hartley" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The screening copy of the film that was provided offered average image quality, with inconsistent sharpness/detail and some noticable instances of pixelation and shimmer. However, this is still not the retail copy and unfortunately, I cannot make any final comments on it, as the retail copy will hopefully offer better image quality.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which uses the surrounds to throw out various creepy effects is more effective at being spooky than the on-screen events at times. Additionally, there's plenty of jolt scares, some of which are accompanied by deep low bass. Audio qualilty is very good, with clear dialogue and well-recorded effects.
EXTRAS: A few minutes of interviews with cast and crew and the trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Haunting of Molly Hartley" had quite a bit of potential in the hands of a different filmmaker, but debut director Liddell goes for too many cliches (shock cords, etc) and - while there are a couple of satisfactory performances and effective spooks - the movie remains rather forgettable. Rent it.
The Film C+