Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 29, 2015)
Will a movie someday supplant The Exorcist as the dominant film in its genre? No – there’s a zero percent chance anything ever overtakes the 1973 classic when it comes to movies about demonic possession.
Nonetheless, filmmakers continue to mine the subject matter for cinematic offerings, and that leads us to 2015’s The Exorcism of Molly Hartley. A sequel to 2008’s The Haunting of Molly Hartley, Exorcism finds Molly (Sarah Lind) a few years down the road. She continues to harbor a literal demon inside of her, and after a wild night of partying/sex, Molly comes under suspicion of murder.
This leads to her placement inside a mental institution, where she causes all sorts of chaos due to her supernatural abilities. Can Molly be saved/redeemed? Defrocked priest John Barrow (Devon Sawa) plans to give it a try.
The existence of Exorcism appears to prove that virtually any movie can lead to a sequel. Haunting didn’t exactly dominate box offices, as it earned a mere $15 million or so worldwide. With a tiny $5 million budget, it made money, but not much.
Someone must have faith in the property – though not enough faith to send Exorcism to the big screen, as the film went direct to video. One suspects it comes with a budget even smaller than the pittance used to make Haunting as well.
I never saw the earlier film, so Exorcism acts as my introduction to the characters and situations. Not that I need a lot of exposition, as Exorcism firmly sticks with tried and true genre conceits.
Of course, this means heavy nods back to The Exorcist, and reflections of other demon-oriented efforts appear as well. Perhaps someone can find an original thought buried in Exorcism, but I couldn’t locate anything new or fresh.
Not that I demand total originality from all the movies I see, and that’s especially true within the horror genre. There are only so many ways to scare an audience, so I can live with flicks that echo predecessors as long as they do so in a dynamic, involving manner.
Exorcism fails to succeed in that regard. Really, the movie lacks any true plot, as it consists of little more than a barely coherent conglomeration of horror moments. We get the requisite Exorcist references – possessed person tied to a bed, possessed person who vomits green goop – and other supposedly creepy/scary bits. Not to be outdone, some scenes come straight out of The Omen as well.
None of these add up to anything more than a headache for the viewer. Even if I ignore the film’s complete lack of creativity, the attempts at tension/scares simply don’t go anywhere. Everything feels forced, as the filmmakers work overtime to produce the desired results.
These flop. All of the graphic imagery, spooky music and loud noises in the world can’t make this tedious story interesting. We simply follow the movie’s incessant bang and clatter as it ambles from one cliché to another, with nary a scare in sight.
All of this leaves us with a slow, ineffective horror experience. Nothing more than a conglomeration of sequences borrowed from better films, Exorcism goes nowhere.
Footnote: maybe this just shows my age, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t find it tough not to call the movie The Exorcism of Mariette Hartley.