All build-up and no payoff for the baffling ‘Molly Hartley’

Meghan Bogardus

As far as judging your average thrillers, “The Haunting of Molly Hartley” measures up just as well as the usual fare for Halloween releases, and at some moments, even better. Well, at least until the end.

It is easy to say the end of a scary movie makes or breaks the entire movie itself. The ending should be shocking and, at times, even a little confusing. The ending of “Molly Hartley” was baffling – and not in a good way.

The movie starts out intriguing enough, with a flashback to a random girl stumbling through a forest to meet her boyfriend. Moments later she is killed by her angry father, who stabs her while speaking nonsense about not letting her turn 18.

Though this moment comes at the film’s beginning, this – and the entire premise of the movie – feels a bit contrived. It is unnatural to hear the characters later discussing the fact that Molly’s soul was sold to the devil by her parents in exchange for 18 years of the dying child’s life. And it’s downright silly to actually see a “mysterious woman” appear from a bathroom stall to make the offer to her parents.

In spite of this forced premise, the movie has adequate suspense and the typical horror movie tension. The movie’s main spooks come in the form of predictable music-queued jumps, but for the most part, they are effective.

Another major faltering point of the movie was its lack of character development. The majority of the characters are of the standard one-dimensional mold.

Chace Crawford, who is making his first movie appearance since his “Gossip Girl” fame, seems to be playing the same role as he does on television. It is a bit predictable that his overpowering friendliness toward Molly would turn out to be suspicious.

There is also the atypical angry “queen bee” who believes she is about to be dethroned (AnnaLynne McCord), the rebel (Shannon Marie Woodward) and the Jesus freak (Shanna Collins). Collins is by far the most original character in the cast. She provides the only true shocking moment, which involved an attempted murder during a “baptism” of sorts.

Yet, in spite of all these cookie-cutter characters, the one character who doesn’t seems to have any depth at all is Molly Hartley (Haley Bennett) herself. Bennett hardly ever shines, and it seems the only moments that she ever really expresses anything is when she is hysterical or hyperventilating.

The character of Molly Hartley is completely bland and only has the distinction of being “haunted” as she was growing up. Though, in reality, she isn’t at all.

Though there seems to be a chance that she is “haunted” with the mysterious voices she hears, the hallucinations and the one rather cheesy-looking “spirit” she encounters, this is all explained away by the trauma of her mother attempting to murder her and, later, a blood clot in her brain.

So, it seems there is no “haunting” of Molly Hartley, unless you count her own mother or the Satanic people who have been “watching” her.

The movie’s climax, I will admit, is a bit shocking and entertaining – until the last few moments.

For a movie so dark, both in cinematography and in theme, it seems rather strange that the ending would be so upbeat. While it is understandable that the writers and the director wanted to make a point that evil is not always bad, the deviation from the rest of the movie is just too great.

It was almost as though somehow the ending to “High School Musical 3” slipped in just in the final moments.

As the movie came to a close, another moviegoer in the theater yelled, “Is anyone else confused?”

Yes, confused as to how an above average thriller can unravel in just the last three minutes.

Contact all correspondent Meghan Bogardus at [email protected].