Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Haunting of Molly Hartley (2008)

I'm not sure if it was because I trekked through the drudgery of American Nightmare last night or not, but I really enjoyed The Haunting of Molly Hartley. Perhaps, again, it's all about expectations, and since mine were low it won me over. Or maybe it really is a decent movie?

One thing this film did that a lot of horror/thrillers don't do anymore is use a hook at the end of the opening scene. Just like reading a book, I need something that peaks my interest, whets my appetite, so that I'll be urged to continue following the story.

Lo and behold, Molly Hartley captured my interest from the start and didn't let go until the credits rolled.

I do find it amusing that I tossed out the idea of seeing the film in the theater (or ever for that matter) based on reviews all over the Net and from friends. Every source I sought denounced the movie on the grounds that it was an adolescent, cheap-thrill, lame waste of time. So, deflated and disappointed, I saved my $9 ($11 with the purchase of a Nerds Rope) and moved on to other things. But then Netflix worked it's magic and shoved the movie's DVD release in my face all over their site: Movies You Would Enjoy; Suggestions Based On Your Ratings; New Release In Your Favorite Genre. The marketing worked. I couldn't let it slip by unwatched. Added to the queue on Monday, in my mailbox on Wednesday (today).

The story follows Molly, a young, intelligent seventeen year old, and her father, who move from Boston to start afresh after Molly's mother attacked her and stabbed her in the chest with a pair of scissors. Though we never get to see the actual occurrence of the stabbing incident, there are a handful of vivid flashbacks to give us a good idea of how it went down. Molly, as likable a character as I've seen on screen in a long time, struggles with constant auditory and visual hallucinations and begins to find that there is more to the story than the fact that her mother just went berserk. In fact, the story that is unveiled is quite good. It's been done before, but the way the movie carried it out works for me.

The acting is great, there are a few eerie moments, and the video quality is great. I'm not referring to the fact that I watched it in hi-def on a big plasma--necessarily. I love all of these new horror and thriller movies that are coming out because, unlike most pre-2000 flicks, they are filmed with a high-quality lens (ref: The Hills Have Eyes) and a director who knows what he's doing to capture the suspense as well as the underlying story. During this film, I was drawn into the characters, into the story, into the mystery surrounding this soon-to-be-eighteen-year-old's birthday.

I thought the ending was great. Here we have another case of evil triumphs over good. In fact, I believe I may have detected a nice little metaphor for abortion.

The mystery of Molly's 18th birthday is that her parents made a pact with an evil woman that would save their newborn baby (Molly), and let them live with her as a normal family for eighteen years. I guess everything was kosher for a while in the Hartley residence, until her mom snapped out of the fairytale and realized that Molly was destined for a life of evil as of her upcoming birthday. Hence the stabbing, and the institutionalization of the mother. Then, the mother haunts Molly, desperately trying to kill her so that she will not become evil. And, ultimately, the mother fails. Everyone who tries to turn Molly over to "good" fails. Molly willingly chooses evil in the end, leaving behind her loving and remorseful father, and the "Biblethumper" classmate who reaches out to Molly. It's a great turn of events as the movie has you pulling for Molly until the last five minutes. Then you're left, torn.

To sum it all up, yes, Molly Hartley is a modern thriller flick aimed at a teenage audience. No, it doesn't have edgy, blood-curdling horror as the trailers depicted, but it is definitely worth watching.

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