Friday, October 31, 2008

"The Haunting of Molly Hartley" is just average in the "gentler" horror genre


"The Haunting of Molly Hartley" got some pre-release hype for Halloween, partly because of the appearance Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford (who, like Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, comes from Texas). The film, with a plot that combines “Rosemary’s Baby” with “The Covenant” seems to run out of steam even in less than 90 minutes. The setting appears to be in Oklahoma (from license plates).

OK, Molly (Haley Bennett) may be losing her mind and face the fate of her mother, already in an asylum. In a backstory, her mother apparently had attempted to kill her to prevent the same fate, and that prologue is somewhat carelessly handled. Now, some of the other kids (a few of them of the "Gossip Girl variety" mixed with the "religulous") at her new prep school are ready to help her, including one girl who is ready to save her soul. And there is the backstory of the “pact” her father made to save her life at birth – she won’t be her own person once she turns 18. That leads to a pretty brutal scene in a baptistery which may offend some people. But it is the role of boyfriend Joseph Young (Crawford) that disappoints. You expect much more from the character in the story, like something “really bad” to happen to him. As an actor, Crawford seems to accomplish a lot more in the “Gossip Girl” series. The special effects and suspense in the film are “average” at best.

The movie (87 min) is rated PG-13 and seemed to aim for a wider audience than an original sharp edge in the art of horror. At a large Regal theater in northern Virginia tonight, it drew a relatively small audience at the 8 PM showing. Regal presented this in HD Digital Projection (1.85:1) but there was no noticeable difference with this print.

The film is directed by Mickey Liddell and distributed by Freestyle Releasing, which distributes mainly low budget independently produced “genre” films or other unusual films. It has worked with a number of other companies including Warner Brothers, Lionsgate, and The Yari Film Group.

In 2006 Freestyle released “An American Haunting,” directed by Courtney Solomon, based on the novel by Brent Monahan of the only documented case of a fatal haunting in US history. A larger looking film (2.35:1) the back story in the 19th Century is effective. Lionsgate released the DVD. This film had some big names, including Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, and James D’Arcy.

Another related film that comes to mind is “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” (2005), directed by Scott Derrickson, from Sony Screen Gems and Lakeshore, about a priest accused of negligent homicide from an exorcism on a girl.

I remember a friend back in my boyhood who said, "One out of every six movies made should be a horror movie." Indeed. I also remember that he once said, "Only a nitwit would make a movie called "Color" and film it in black and white." Indeed, Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" are true to their titles.

I might have working-titled this movie "The Instantiation of Molly Hartley." How about "The Instantiation of Sarah Palin"?

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