The Exorcism of Molly Hartley feels like two scripts taped together. One is and truly scary and disturbing scary about a satanic cult who preys on a young woman, that makes up this film’s first and third acts. The middle act, however, is made up of the most generic and over-used tropes and cliches from exorcism films, directly rips-off moments from horror classics, and is full of distractingly bad acting and boring characters.
The film starts off with a few genuinely scary moments, as we see Molly Hartley become possessed by the devil, and Father Barrow perform a disastrous exorcism. These scenes are genuinely scary, and contain some brutal and shocking imagery. They also act as great introduction to both leads. However, once Molly and Barrow plead insanity and are placed in the same institution, the film seriously falls apart.
Molly’s possession is initially quite understated, but soon becomes a full blown Exorcist-style possession. Not is Molly Hartley’s makeup is almost identical to the design used in William Friedkin’s 1974 classic The Exorcist, this film lifts the classic voice and many of the scares from The Exorcist. Additionally, a scene in the middle of the film is nearly is nearly identical to the most famous scene in The Omen.
The possession scenes in The Exorcism of Molly Hartley bring nothing new to the table, and don’t even try to add anything different to the worn out cliches. After two good setups, the leads fade into the background, and replaced by a bland psychiatrist. Honestly, it doesn’t feel there is an original idea in the middle forty minutes of the film. It’s a bore to watch, and it’s a huge let down after a good opening.
However, the film takes a left turn, and elevates the film final thirty minutes to a original movie, focusing on a satanic cult which lurked in the background of the film’s first hour. Again, the film shows us some disturbing visuals and supplies a lot of scares, which were missing when the plot was so familiar and based on old cliches. Even though the change is made possible by a random and nearly unbelievable plot twist, the film drastically improves as it nears the grand finale- a showdown in a creepy and nearly deserted mental institution.
The Exorcism of Molly Hartley may frustrate audiences with its cliche-ridden middle that may send some audiences for their remote immediately. The film partially redeems itself with a genuinely scary finale, but the bulk of the movie is a dull and familiar exorcism story. The film only finds it footing as it wanders farther away from its reliance on barely reworking classic horror moments.