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The cinematic equivalent of a razor blade hidden in an apple, “The Haunting of Molly Hartley” is a teen-oriented horror opus that wouldn’t pass muster on the CW network.
Playing somewhat like a juvenile version of “Rosemary’s Baby,” this inept, incoherent attempt to cash in on young girls who can’t buy a ticket to the R-rated “Saw V” (or are too lazy to sneak in) will be out of theaters long before the Halloween pumpkins start to rot.
After a prologue that sets the nasty, religious-themed tone even while having no direct connection to what follows, the main story line kicks in, involving the titular character’s (Haley Bennett) being bedeviled by memories of the psychotic mother (Marin Hinkle) who once tried to kill her.
Now living with her solicitous father (Jake Weber, on a busman’s holiday from TV’s “The Medium”) and attending a posh private school, 17-year-old Molly tries to fit in with the various cliques while dealing with recurring nosebleeds, voices coming from trees and horrific visions. Although initially diagnosed with a tumor — alas, the subsequent medical procedure, unlike the one given to Regan in “The Exorcist,” is strictly offscreen — she discovers that her problems have a far more sinister though wholly unconvincing origin.
Director Mickey Liddell attempts to enliven the sophomoric proceedings with the requisite sudden jolts, to often ridiculous extremes. Suffice it to say that one of the film’s scariest moments involves a bundle of mail being dropped through a slot.
The young performers, who also include Chace Crawford (“Gossip Girl”) as a hunky suitor and Shanna Collins as Molly’s Jesus freak friend who practices a lethal form of baptism, don’t exactly make the hokey material soar.
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