Thursday, August 4, 2016


If The Exorcist and The Prince of Darkness and The Omen had a ménage à trois love child, and then that love child were murdered and photographed for forensic evidence, and then those photographs were picked up by ANOTHER child who drew rough copies of them in permanent marker on your most expensive upholstery, the result would be The Exorcism of Molly Hartley. 

If you haven’t seen horror movies before, The Exorcism of Molly Hartley might be serviceable.  But almost every scene, every scare, is an impoverished version of something that was done much better in the classic devil possession movies.  Remember when Damian’s nurse throws herself off the balcony in The Omen ?  Chilling, right?  Or when Alice Cooper gathers his blank-faced army of destitutes in Prince of Darkness?  Or Linda Blair pea-souping the room?  All of those scenes, and more, are unceremoniously lifted in The Exorcism of Molly Hartley, but without any of the corresponding effect. 

It all begins with two priests trying to perform an exorcism on a pregnant woman who is tied to a bed.  It’s just like that final scene of The Exorcist except the chant “the power of Christ compels you” has become the McDowell’s-like “the power of Christ commands you.”  At the end, one of the priests defenestrates her and himself. 

Many years later, the surviving and now defrocked priest Barrow (Devon Sawa) is in prison without explanation.  Apparently he pleas insanity (to what charge?) and is transferred to a Catholic mental institution.  Meanwhile when we meet the titular Molly Hartley (Sarah Lind) she is doing tequila shots to celebrate a birthday party with her expository-dialogue-spouting friends.  She takes some drugs (molly, presumably), blows off her well-meaning friends, and then gets into a steamy slo-mo dancing scene that culminates in a softcore ménage à trois (see, it wasn't just a metaphor!).  The next morning, cops come to investigate screaming from the night before *eye roll* and find her new sexy friends chopped up in the tub.  Molly is taken into custody and transferred to the same Catholic mental institution as the priest.

Weird stuff happens.  I mean, weird if you’ve never seen an exorcism movie before.  Like Molly gets all gross and snotty-looking, belches then vomits on her doctor.   It’s an impressive amount of vomit.  There should be a joke here about Molly’s previously-established fluid sexuality, but I can’t seem to find it under all of her fluids.  Other stuff happens.  A receptionist kills herself.  Patients start beating their heads against the walls.  Just a bunch of possession shit, you know.

Meanwhile the priest at the institution retires.  He says that in his retirement he’s going to “play a lot of basketball,” but what he means is that he’s “going to take up the sport of basketball,” since he dribbles the ball like this:

When Molly starts speaking as the devil, we realize that the devil is kind of a dick, and isn’t nearly as witty as he thinks he is.  At one point the devil comes up with this catchy rhyme: “the things they tell in the bowels of hell” and then he congratulates himself on writing a verse that “Johnny Milton” could add to Paradise Lost.  But Paradise Lost is in blank verse: it doesn’t rhyme, as the devil should know.  Plus, the devil’s line isn’t uniformly iambic, though it does appear to be in pentameter.  So, like, a C+ overall.

Later the priest uses this as evidence that Molly Hartley actually is possessed, because there is no way that Molly could know about Paradise Lost.  Or, as the doctor says to the priest: “She wouldn’t have any of that knowledge.”  How does the doctor have that knowledge, though?  Does she know what Molly took in college?  Does she know that Molly is culturally illiterate to the point of not knowing what Paradise Lost is about, even though, as we learn, she has known that she’s possessed by the devil for the last six years?   It’s only, like, the best piece of literature written about the devil ever—and I have that knowledge since I wrote a paper on it in college!

The devil is in general a lot less diabolical than one might expect.  He relies on clichés like--“you’ve brought a knife to a gunfight.”   Once the exorcism really gets going, there’s a lot of holy water and a lot of growling and writhing around.  But when the paint-by-numbers exorcism is over, there’s still twenty minutes left in the film—what’s going on?!


The priest who said he liked basketball but suspiciously couldn’t dribble without staring down his hands?  Surprise, he’s the real Satanist!  And he’s planned the whole exorcism to get the devil out of Molly and into the world!  And when the devil gets out he’s just a bunch of insects.  Barrow collects them inside a holy bug zapper.  But the other priest steals the insects.  What was a battle for a woman’s soul has become an epic tale of pest control.  Johnny Milton couldn’t have written it; he wouldn’t have had any of that knowledge!

I really wanted to like this movie once I saw that Devon Sawa was in it.  And he really isn’t bad in it, though he might be miscast.  He seems more like a chill dude than a troubled priest.  But he was in Idle Hands, for which I have an unexplainable but fierce and unwavering affection.  Thus I can say nothing bad about Devon Sawa.  (It’s also why I gave Jessica Alba a big pass in The Veil a few weeks back).  But Sawa can’t Save-wa this one.  Can bad puns be a sign of devil possession?  Quick, someone call an exterminatorcist!

Sarah Lind is pretty good, if somewhat hammy, as the tongue-wagging, wise-cracking, snot-nosed devil Molly.   But you know how some people use a lot of hand gestures when they talk?  Molly does the same, but with her feet.  Because the director falls in love with the low-angle between-the-feet shot, a number of scenes are filmed with Molly’s feet framing the action.  And her feet act.  They are like major players in conversations.   It’s like there’s a movie within a movie.  And that movie is called The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’s Feet. 

Oh, look, I’ve written the whole review and didn’t even mention that this movie is a sequel to The Haunting of Molly Hartley.  It’s that important.

Questions for Joe:
1.  Why do you think the priest was in prison?

JD: I looked for a clue in Devon Sawa's IMDB credits, and found the plot synopsis for his 2005 film, Extreme Dating:

In this action-comedy, four twenty-something friends are looking for love and having no luck. While on a ski trip, one of them finds passion with a beautiful girl after a random accident on the icy slopes. The others quickly conclude that the extreme circumstances of the accident were what caused love to bloom. They decide that the path to true love is to purposely set each other up on "extreme dates" with the objects of their affections. After a couple of near-successes, they go for broke by planning an elaborate kidnapping scheme that can't miss. But the hired "kidnappers" turn out to be ex-cons with a plan of their own, and the extreme date escalates out of control.

Paul, there are no 'Why's' in any of his scripts. Someone...or something, is editing them out!

2.  What do you make of the devil’s plan?  Was the ménage à trois a part of it?

JD: I think the devil just wanted to get a good job and live comfortably, but Molly had to go and stab a couple revelers. That was all her, man. Just because you're possessed by the devil doesn't mean you aren't crazy.

3.  If Molly knew she was possessed for the last six years, why didn’t she go for an exorcism earlier?

JD: She tried, but the first thing the devil possesses is the feet. Every time she'd walk to a church her devil feet would flip out and run the other way, expressively!

4.  The doctor tells Barrow that she will “sign his release papers” if he performs the exorcism.  But if she knows he’s not insane, why hasn’t she signed his release papers already?

JD: Bringing "Why" to Molly Hartley, Paul, is like bringing a cat to a gun fight.

5.  When possessed rotted-face Molly tries to seduce Barrow, he says “you can’t seduce me demon.”   How hard did Barrow have to work to repress his sexual desire for a growling lump of snot?

JD: I don't know, but I love that in the animated .gif directly above your questions, where Molly's feet are providing such powerful punctuation, the words she's saying are "You could have all this", and she's gesturing at her crotch. Don't tempt me, devil!

6.  Why doesn’t anybody notice that Molly looks really different once she’s possessed?  Wouldn’t you at least ask about what happened to her forehead and teeth?

JD: But when the devil briefly releases her, she's not green and snotty anymore. So it's all an illusion... meant to seduce the priest! But why? Maybe everyone is melting and blistering all the time in hell, and so the inhabitants have just incorporated that look into what they consider to be within the norms of good looks. Or, maybe the devil knows the priest's secret, and it's that he likes his women like he likes his Kleenexes.

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