No one (and we mean no one) was asking for a sequel to the 2008 PG-13 horror film The Haunting of Molly Hartley, but 20th Century Fox felt like the horror genre was lacking just one more possession film, so they dug The Haunting of Molly Hartley up in order to give it this unnecessary, lazy sequel. We know how much all of you were dying to know whatever happened to Molly Hartley, so we thought we would save you the time of having to sit through this slog of a film known as The Exorcism of Molly Hartley and just tell you!
***SPOILERS for the entire film to follow***
First off, the film completely retcons the end of the first film. If you can manage to remember any detail of that film, good for you. I watched it last night and I’ve already forgotten most of it (yes, I sat through both of these things within a 24-hour period). To recap: Molly Hartley (Haley Bennett in the first film, Sarah Lind in the sequel) was stillborn on a restroom floor, so her parents made a deal with a mysterious woman (the Devil) to bring her back to life. The catch? They would only have Molly for 18 years, and then she would belong to the Devil. Also, everyone in town seemed to be Devil worshippers, when Molly’s beau (Chace Crawford) and guidance counselor (Nina Siemaszko) were revealed to be in on the plan (it is mentioned in the sequel that she died between films, which, alright). The guidance counselor was actually revealed to be the Devil, but that fact is completely discarded in the sequel. Molly was revealed to have been completely given over to the Devil by the end of the film, which was the sole moment of inspiration in an otherwise lackluster film.
Rather than explore a life where Molly is now an apostle of Satan, The Exorcism of Molly Hartley chooses to be yet another generic possession film, filled with tropes we have seen countless times before, ever since The Exorcist came out nearly 50 years ago. Six years have passed since the first film ended, and Molly is now a partner at the financial firm she works at. Little does she know that it is about to be six years, six days and six hours since her 18th birthday, which means that the Devil, whom she was impregnated with at that time (wait, what? That wasn’t discussed in the first film!) is ready to be born. I swear I’m not making this up
After celebrating her new partnership at work, Molly takes a couple home for a threesome, providing plenty of female T&A, but cuts away the second the man removes his pants. Needless to say, those two people end up dead in Molly’s bathtub full of blood. The police show up the next morning for a noise complaint that was reported the night before and then proceed to search Molly’s house without a warrant. That’s some great police work. When they find the corpses, they send Molly to a Catholic mental institution (the film just skips over her trial).
Conveniently, at this same institution is Father Barrow (Devon Sawa, looking particularly embarrassed to be here), who was placed there after an exorcism gone wrong led to the deaths of another priest and a young woman. To be clear, Barrow pled insanity to be put in the institution over actual prison, yet when Molly starts displaying signs of possession, her therapist (Gina Holden, of Saw 3D and the very underrated Harper’s Island) thinks it’s alright to have Barrow, a man who is certifiably insane, perform an exorcism on her.
What follows are your usually possession movie tropes: Molly vomits green liquid, writhes around a lot, hangs upside down like an inverted crucifix, makes the receptionist commit suicide in an act of devotion to satan, talks in a man’s voice, flaps her tongue, shoots bugs out of her mouth, and spells words on her skin. There is no originality to any of it, and the lack of shame present in the film is insulting.
The dialogue is even worse than you would imagine, but the most egregious example of the film ripping off another film’s dialogue is when a possessed Molly tells Father Barrow that there is “No Molly, only us” (the dubbing of the demon voice over Lind’s mouth is extremely poor). There’s also a laugh-out-loud moment in the opening scene where a demon tells Barrow that he “will always be a fool for the flesh.” It’s supposed to be scary, but it all comes across as laughable.
After what seems like an insanely long amount of time, Molly is supposedly exorcised and put back in the hospital, while Barrow is just let free (despite his previous sentencing to the institution). It’s at about this point in the film that you realize there are still 30 minutes left in its runtime. “Dear God,” you ask. “There’s more?” Oh yes, it goes on and on.
To make a long story short (too late), Molly gets kidnapped by the Chaplain of the institution (Peter MacNeill), who is revealed to be a follower of Satan. During the ritual, the therapist appears (literally out of nowhere) and impales him with a pipe, and uses his body as a human shield against his disciples. Then a bunch of bugs fly around and the evil disappears.
Lest you thought this was the end of the film, The Exorcism of Molly Hartley puts a sequel tease in it’s final frame (maybe to be released in another seven years). A Devil bug manages to escape the room where Molly was rescued from, fly to a school bus and crawl into the ear of an unsuspecting female student.
What is most depressing about the existence of The Exorcism of Molly Hartley is that people are going to confuse this with the infinitely better The Exorcism of Emily Rose. We must all stop this from happening, and now your curiosity has been indulged you can move on with your lives. Please don’t watch this festering turd of a film and certainly don’t give it any money. Maybe this will show studios that we want better possession movies. One can dream, can’t one?