“It’s Never Too Late”

I’ll spare you the suspense: this movie is not good. Religious/supernatural horror is practically its own sub-genre. Christianity—typically demons or the Anti-Christ/end times—informs the horror behind some classic, and not-so-classic, movies (The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, The Prophecy, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Constantine) as well as television shows (Reaper or Supernatural). For that matter, teen angst has always been a source of potential terror, from Carrie to Twilight. So it’s not exactly unfamiliar territory that The Haunting of Molly Hartley covers. Not only does it not add anything new, it doesn’t do anything remotely approaching interesting with all of the potential fodder for terror.

“Stop acting like everything is going to be alright.” –Molly

The eponymous Molly (Haley Bennett), troubled 17-year-old, finds herself as the new kid at a prep school. Her mother, after a bout of the crazies, had stabbed her with some scissors in order to prevent a great darkness from overtaking her. Her worried dad (Jake Weber, Medium) seeks help from a guidance counselor (Nina Siemaszko) in order to help his daughter. Plagued by headaches, creepy visions, a cavalcade of zealous Christians, and bad pick up lines from resident big stud on campus, Joseph (Chace Crawford, Gossip Girl), Molly runs through a strictly by the numbers story which doesn’t go anywhere.

“Some people are offended that I have a close, personal relationship with Jesus.” –Alexis (Shanna Collins)

The role of religious delusions and nutjobs is what is ultimately examined in this movie (although the word “examined” really gives this movie a lot of credit … such as intentionality of forethought). Apparently Christians stereotypically have difficulty navigating the secular world. Their brand of evangelism buys into the “greatest act of love is to share Christ”/“confrontational evangelism” brand of guilting folks into a state of constant witnessing. These walking proselytizing robots forget that to be fully human we must build relationships with people. Now, if you build relationships with people for the sole purpose of trying to preach the gospel to them, you’re not really building a relationship…you’re building a customer base.

Nutjob Christians are also not comfortable viewing the Bible as “merely” a literary text but only as “the Truth!”. The problem is that we end up making the Bible into something that not only is it not, but it never claims to be. It’s not an answer book for every question in your life or to govern every aspect of your life. (People turn to it and if there’s an issue that the Bible doesn’t comment on, it must be bad). It is not an encyclopedia. It’s not a scientific text. It’s not a history treatise. It’s not a self-help guide. But when we treat it as such, we drive out the mystery from our spiritual lives. It’s this kind of reductionism that allows a person to wave around a verse thinking that should settle an argument.

Let’s face it, while there is plenty in the history of Christianity to be apologized for, neither it nor its followers are the bogeyman this movie wants to make it out to be. Religion, much like politics, has been and can be perverted to people’s own agenda and ends. People can go mad with fear, so that even basic ideas, such as the reality of demonic forces, get twisted into something dark.

“Is it too late for me to be saved? … Even if someone else chose a terrible path for me?” –Molly

The Haunting of Molly Hartley is the kind of category horror that’s ultimately unsatisfying. It’s filled with the requisite boo moments which don’t make you flinch nearly as much as the poor dialogue and acting. With no building tension or feeling of being unsettled, the movie follows the predictable rhythms of building hints of weirdness followed by lulls. Lots and lots of lulls.

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