The Exorcism of Molly Hartley Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Written by Matt Venne
2015, 96 minutes, Unrated
Blu-ray released on October 20th, 2015
Sarah Lind as Molly Hartley
Devon Sawa as Father John Barrow
Gina Holden as Dr. Laurie Hawthorne
Peter Macneill as Chaplain Henry Davies
Dana Leitold as Janet Jones
Poor Molly Hartley can’t catch a break. Apparently, her troubles fitting in at high school had less in common with her being the new girl and everything to do with a demonic cult trying to set her up on a date with Satan...or something. Six years later, she has put all of that supernatural stuff behind her and moved on to a successful career, as she is the youngest person to ever make partner at the financial firm where she works. While out celebrating her 24th birthday (and promotion), Molly opts to ditch her old high school friends in favor of a king-size three-way with strangers she has just met at the club. Our party girl wakes the next morning (surprisingly neither robbed nor missing a kidney) to find police at her door in response to a noise complaint. A quick search of her gorgeous apartment reveals corpses in the tub and before you can sing “Happy Birthday”, young Miss Hartley is on her way to a psych evaluation at the nearby Clovesdale mental hospital.
Dr. Laurie Hawthorne takes special interest in this case, since Molly’s file includes references to both demonic possession and occult interference. She is suffering from auditory hallucinations and fears the devil is back to his old tricks again, but the good doctor is not convinced. Once the patient projectile vomits, speaks in a weird voice, makes objects fly around the room and levitates above her bed, the physician reconsiders her opinion. Luckily for everyone at the hospital, Father John Barrow is currently a patient in residence due to a failed exorcism. The defrocked priest opted for an insanity plea rather than face prison in one of the script’s numerous head-scratchers. Hawthorne convinces Barrow that Molly Hartley could be the key to his redemption. Barrow is not convinced, but in order to help the girl he agrees to face the Devil on his own. What could possibly go wrong?
Do you remember The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), about the priest on trial following a failed exorcism? This is not that movie. The Exorcism of Molly Hartley (2015) is a direct-to-video sequel to the mildly successful The Haunting of Molly Hartley (2008), and while this picture is less than good, it is somewhat better than its predecessor. Exorcism is a muddled misadventure that cherry-picks a lot of iconic moments from famous horror movies and stuffs them all into one script, as if that will guarantee success. Matt Venne has made a career out of writing sequels no one requested, including White Noise 2 (2007), Mirrors 2 (2010) and Fright Night 2 (2013), and now drops this steaming mess into audiences’ laps. He’s seen a lot of devil movies and taken copious notes, but isn’t as talented a screenwriter as those whose shoulders he is so desperately climbing. Director Steven R. Monroe (Sasquatch Mountain) does what he can with the material, but is facing an uphill battle when asked to make what amounts to a “Greatest Hits of Satanic Cinema”.
Sarah Lind (WolfCop) fares better as regular Molly Hartley than she does as possessed Molly Hartley; unfortunately the screen time is roughly a 50/50 split. Devon Sawa (Final Destination) is passable as Father Barrow, but his scenes facing off against the devil are pretty terrible. Venne’s dialogue is particularly brutal on the performers, as neither is a strong enough actor to emerge unscathed from this drivel. With such a derivative script, it is impossible to avoid comparisons to movies like The Exorcist and The Omen, but the familiarity underscores the absence of acting powerhouses like Jason Miller or Max von Sydow. Even without standing in the shadow of better movies, Exorcism struggles under its own preposterousness. The dialogue is frequently laughable and the plotting sucks the breath out of any legitimate scares. Another awkward element is that many supporting characters do not even merit names, even if they appear in multiple scenes or directly advance the plot, as is the case with assorted hospital staff and the guy in the opening sex scene.
I must admit that my attention wandered a bit during this film and I found myself thinking about tying up supernatural monsters. I often wonder why in exorcism movies they bother binding the patient before conducting the ritual and, more to the point, why can the devil not simply make the restraints disappear. In The Exorcist, the demon says such a display of power would be vulgar, but stoops to conquer in the end when faced with expulsion. There are two exorcisms in Molly Hartley directly inspired (pronounced rip off) from The Exorcist franchise and both rely on some holy straps infused with the blessings of the church. These sequences come the closest to succeeding, largely because they follow a direct cinematic blueprint. Granny knots are the least of this film’s problems and for the record, referencing better movies doesn’t improve your picture – it just makes me want to go back and watch the other films instead.
Video and Audio:
The transfer of Molly Hartley is respectable and presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors are never too bold, but remain consistent with the overall tone of the picture. Black levels are deep, flesh tones appear natural and there is plenty of small-object detail throughout.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix does everything it needs to without going above or beyond. Dialogue levels are free from distortion and music cues are effective. The rear speakers are frequently put to work as Molly’s auditory hallucinations are given ample room to haunt your system.
English, French and Spanish subtitles are offered for anyone in need.
Exorcism: Beyond One Truth (18 minutes) is a variation on the standard “making of” featurette in that instead of offering a look behind the scenes, it focuses on the religious angle of the film. Cast and crew appear alongside academic scholars and members of the church to discuss the notion of demonic possession. The intent is solid, but the segment quickly wears thin for anyone that doesn’t believe in angels, devils or unicorns.
A small number of videos are presented in Clovesdale Institute: Classified Security Camera Footage (4 minutes). These are scenes from the film, presented as if captured by surveillance cameras, each preceded by a title card identifying the material as coming from police evidence files. I don’t know if this angle was ever seriously considered, but the novelty fades since the cameras not only capture irrefutable proof of supernatural activity, the footage also contains cinematic edits for dramatic purpose.
What could have been a serious look at the production is whittled down into four 60-second videos called Director’s Diaries (5 minutes). Make-up FX, The Exorcism, The Black Church and The Facility are brief looks at the filming process, hosted by Monroe, but the clips are over before they start and are just an exercise in frustration.
A collection of promotional trailers for other Fox titles are offered instead of anything for either this film or even its predecessor.
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