The Austin Chronicle

The Haunting of Molly Hartley

Rated PG-13, 87 min. Directed by Mickey Liddell. Starring Haley Bennett, Chace Crawford, Shannon Marie Woodward, Jake Weber, Shanna Collins, Nina Siemaszko, Marin Hinkle.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 7, 2008

Evil is as evil does, which makes former Everwood producer Liddell and co-screenwriters John Travis and Rebecca Sonnenshine the Beelzebubs of the banal thanks to this frighteningly dull updating of The Omen and Rosemary's Baby for the Gossip Girl set. Seriously, given the possibilities for high school evils (mortal, venal, and pretty much any other kind you can think of), it's downright depressing how uninspired The Haunting of Molly Hartley turns out to be. (Check out Brick, Rian Johnson's teen-angst updating of the classic film noir genre, if you think witty recontextualizing is beyond the grasp of today's filmmakers.) A collection of low-grade shock cuts strung together with possession-film signifiers that were already creaky by the time Ovidio G. Assonitis' Exorcist knockoff Beyond the Door arrived in theatres 3½ decades ago does not a passable horror film make. Newcomer Bennett, looking like the mythical soul of the American teen (post-WB), is the titular teen who has more than her share of blemishes for a high school senior. Granted, they're not on her peaches-and-cream skin. They're more along the lines of family skeletons dangling in the ancestral closet. Her mom's been institutionalized after trying to eviscerate her daughter with a pair of sewing shears (and, as played by Hinkle, she's no Piper Laurie), her father (Weber, of the Dawn of the Dead remake) has removed her to an exclusive private school, and her new schoolyard BFF Alexis (Collins) is – good lord! – a born-again Christian. Then, too, there are all the creepy adults wandering around in various states of foreshadowing, including former West Wing-er Siemaszko as a guidance counselor nearly as creepy as Freaks and Geeks' hippified Mr. Rosso. The key to the horrors at hand appears to lie with Molly's fast-approaching 18th birthday, or so the thin, thinner, thinnest strand of storyline would have you believe. The real shocker is how hellishly yawn-inducing this utterly pointless and forgettable Haunting turns out to be. It's enough to make you scream.

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