It's hard to imagine that a horror movie with schoolgirls could be this dull. But The Haunting of Molly Hartley has two things going against it. One, not enough horror, and two, not enough pale, knobby schoolgirl knees. You would think they would realize an exploitation film has to exploit something at some point.
Even the young actors, who under normal circumstances are probably quite easy on the eyes, are rendered unpleasantly blotchy by the video filters. It's the cinematography spookifying the cast, but let's face it, prep-school girls simply aren't as pallid and otherworldly as their Japanese counterparts.
But that is only the beginning of the failures. The best you can say about Molly Hartley is you can barely notice the bad acting through all the terrible writing. Here's an example:
"Is it too late to be saved?"
"It's never too late to be saved."
"Even if someone has chosen a terrible path for me?"
The dialogue sounds like junior-high fanfic. It's tooth grindingly bad. And the plot is worse.
Following a scissor-stabbing incident with her psychotically religious mother, the eponymous Molly starts her first day at a new prep school. Her father has moved her to a new town to get a fresh start, but this new town just happens to be where the homicidal mom is institutionalized. Whenever the dad has a scene, he says either "everything will be fine" or "it'll be alright," over and over again.
At school, Molly meets the standard pallet of high-school characters. There's the cute boy who's incredibly rich, and supposed charming, who nevertheless comes off as obnoxious and smarmy. There's the school badgirl, who can be recognized by her torn fishnets and tendency to roll her eyes. The bitchy popular girl has hair so big she looks like a blonde Ronald MacDonald, and the nerdy girl just won't shut up about Jesus.
Based on how religious faith is portrayed, it seems that screenwriters John Travis and Rebecca Sonnenshine learned everything they know about Christianity from the Wikipedia entry. It has something to do with evil and praying, right?
Meanwhile scary stuff is happening. Such as, there's a noise and then Molly makes a weird face. There's also some super-strength thing going on, but the demonic power doesn't ameliorate Molly's running-like-a-girl problem.
There's exactly one scary surprise moment in Molly Hartley, but most of the time when there's a loud noise and a monster jumps out it's just Molly's mom. Now, don't get me wrong, moms can be pretty frightening, but it's in a "man, I hope she doesn't find out that I converted to Scientology" way, and not a "man, I hope my mom doesn't stab me with scissors" way.
About halfway through the movie, Molly's mom explains why all this "scary" stuff is happening, and why it is that she's been trying to kill her own daughter. Apparently, when Molly turns eighteen the "darkness" is going to come for her.
At first, I thought they were referring to that awesome glam-rock band "The Darkness," but that didn't make any sense, because if the "The Darkness" were coming for Molly, then they would have come when she turned seventeen, the age of legal consent (TX § 21.11a).
The Haunting of Molly Hartley never really explains this whole "darkness" thing, but I've got a theory. You know how Gingersnaps exploited our primal fears of menstruation? Or how Alien exploited our primal fears of pregnancy? Molly Hartley exploits our primal fears of growing up and voting Republican.
Think about it. The darkness comes to get her when she turns eighteen. It comes after she falls in with a crowd of privileged rich people. She has no sympathy for the mentally ill. And she suddenly develops irrational religious beliefs.
It all totally makes sense, in a metaphorical kind of way. And I can't imagine anything more terrifying.