|Haley Bennett (left) and Chace Crawford in ''The Haunting of Molly Hartley.''|
Bad news about "The Haunting of Molly Hartley": First-time director and seasoned television producer Mickey Liddell ("Everwood") seems to have enrolled in the course "How to Make a Horror Film 101." Good news: He passed.
It doesn't take a genius to pair a suspenseful soundtrack with quick shots of streaming blood, mumbled ghost whispers, and teens shrieking by the dozen, but for all it's worth, Liddell lives up to the challenge. And considering the slew of less-than-titillating thrillers to bombard us as of late ("Saw V," I'm looking at you), "Molly Hartley" is dull at worst and surprisingly spooky at best.
It helps that the film showcases a few noteworthy faces; the title role is played by Haley Bennett, an actress whom you may remember as the ditzy, belly-baring pop star Cora Corman in "Music and Lyrics." It's nice to see her in a more natural state here; with freckles scattered across her face and Plain-Jane brown locks chopped to her shoulders, she is, in many senses, unconventionally pretty. And at a time when the buxom blonde seems to reign, she's refreshing.
The plot - well, not so much. After Molly's mother (Marin Hinkle) tries to murder her, she enrolls in a new private high school. There she crushes hard on Joseph Young (Chace "oh-so-dreamy" Crawford from "Gossip Girl") and befriends Leah (Shannon Marie Woodward of "The Riches"), a classmate who, I can only guess, is considered bad because she has an attitude and holes in her tights. Still, with her 18th birthday approaching, Molly starts to endure visions of her now-institutionalized mama, and must confront the truth about the day she was born.
Delicately balancing subplots that deal with religion, the devil, and - what else? - house parties, "Molly Hartley" is a series of ups and downs at the cineplex. It's no "Rosemary's Baby," but for teens looking for a quick fix on All Hallow's Day, it will do.