I guess all teenage starlets have to go through their cinematic rites of passage by having some horror flick under their belt. So far I've seen every film on the big screen that Haley Bennett had starred in, from her breakthrough role as the uber-sexy Cora "Buddha's Delight" Corman in Music and Lyrics, to Kendall of College, and now, the titular character in this horror film. Save for her debut, everything else had been of dubious quality, and I'm afraid without another hit soon, she'll more than be forgotten and should concentrate on her singing career instead.
The film begins in some spooky woods in the 70s where a girl, on the cusp of her 18th birthday, begins to hear voices swirling around, and eventually got deliberately killed by her father. We don't know why, because we're suddenly transported to today, and to the bedroom of Molly Hartley, who is starting life afresh with her father (Jake Weber) in a new town.
The focus is then shifted to high school pangs, of having to deal with new rivals, new potential love interest Joseph (Chace Crawford), and new friends such as the rebel Leah (Shannon Marie Woodward) and Bible-thumper Alexis (Shanna Collins). And because of a near fatal accident involving her mother, Molly's got regular shrink schedules with the school resident councillor Dr. Emerson (Nina Siemaszko), where doubts are planted in the audience mind that Molly's not who she really seemed, having strange habits of going to the toilet to hyperventilate, or hearing voices of unknown folks again swirling around her, or experience hallucinations which provide for plenty of cheap scare tactics. Scenes like these were repeated ad-nauseam.
But they are nothing frightening, because the movie has an entire look and feel of High School Musical, save the characters don't break out into song and dance. A little bit of positivity about the film is that there was an air of mystery about it, having this cool scream queen who doesn't know what her destiny is, always possessing this edgy feel to her character that there's more than meets they eye, holding you in some suspense. Coupled with the strange and slow revelation on what happened between Molly and her mom, it leaves you guessing for the most part.
Until it decided to play it fast, and here's where the loopholes all start to appear really dumb in this hurried mode to finish the story off. You laugh as it went from scene to scene and not made much sense, and the worst part of it all was how it leapt into some bubblegum pop type of film, betraying all instances of sane thriller development into something that could have been the Wow factor when revealed, instead of the Duh factor. In doing what it did, it showed the filmmakers had lack of flair and skill, making some very strange decisions to have the story take on this flaccid psycho-babble route, and lacking any compelling characters to feel for. Heck, there's not even a decent body count too.
The Haunting of Molly Hartley had an idea, but alas the translation of this idea into a feature film, with eye candy looking cast and all, failed miserably. Save your money, and fans of Haley Bennett would be better off watching her (non) performance on rented DVD instead.