Encouraging a determined young female protagonist to fully embrace her growing dark side and inclinations is a unique perspective in any film, as the resolute cinematic hero is often believed to need to defend the goodness in their world. But the 2008 horror thriller, ‘The Haunting of Molly Hartley,’ intriguingly reversed the genre’s expectations of how lead characters are supposed to act, and what they stand for, as the title teen fully embraced being overtaken by the Devil by the end of the story. But director Steven R. Monroe’s new sequel to the supernatural film, titled ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley,’ showcases how the title character, who’s now a young woman, has tried to revert back to the strong-willed ways she held dear before giving into surrendering her soul.
Shockya was generously given the opportunity to visit the set of the follow-up film in Winnipeg, Canada with several other journalists in July 2014. While on the set, we witnessed how Molly is trying to integrate back into society, especially as she’s forced to undergo an exorcism to finally free herself from the Devil’s possession, once and for all.
‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’ follows the title character (Sarah Lind), who’s now all grown up and trying to lead a normal life, but the unholy demon still lives inside her. Six years after graduating high school, and discovering that a secret pact assigned her soul to the devil, Molly is suspected of murder. She’s confined to a mental hospital, where she wreaks supernatural havoc on the staff, including her psychiatrist, Dr. Laurie Hawthorne (Gina Holden), and her fellow patients, including Father John Barrow (Devon Sawa). Her only hope to reclaim her life again is to survive an exorcism by the defrocked priest, who’s looking to redeem himself and save Molly’s life before her transformation is complete.
The horror sequel, which is now available on Digital HD, is also set to be released on Blu-ray and DVD by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on Tuesday. The unrated home discs will include several Special Features, including ‘Exorcism: Beyond One Truth,’ during which professionals and religious experts gather facts about demonic possession, and debate whether it is a form of psychosis, or if there is something more sinister involved. ‘Clovesdale Institute: Classified Security Camera Footage’ follows Dr. Hawthorne as she checks in with each of her patients through security camera footage, which gives the film’s fans a full view of the origins of Molly’s exorcism.
There are also several other bonus clips on the discs, including ‘Hartley Admission Hospital,’ ‘Surveillance of Fr. Barrow,’ ‘Dr. Hawthorne Visits M. Hartley’ and ‘Fr. Barrow Performs Exorcism Rite Part 1, 2 and 3.’ The Blu-ray and DVD will also include the ‘Director Diaries,’ which show Monroe shooting some of the film’s most intense scenes. Other Special Features include ‘Makeup Fx,’ ‘The Exorcism,’ ‘The Black Church’ and ‘The Facility.’
The scenes being filmed during the set visit were being shot in Winnipeg’s Millennium Centre, which is set in the city’s historic Exchange District. The building, which once held the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, is located on the city’s Main Street, and can now be rented out as an event venue. Lavishly designed and built in 1911 to impress and even intimidate customers, the building, which is eerily reminiscent of the neo-classical style of construction, served as the perfect location for Molly’s deteriorating emotional and physical states.
One scene from ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’ was shot on the first floor of the building, which features Celebration Hall, a marble banking hall that’s capped by a glass dome. The production then moved onto shooting a more menacing scene, which features Molly being subjected to a Satanic ritual, in the Millennium Centre’s claustrophobic-feeling basement. In between setting up and shooting both scenes, members of the sequel’s cast and crew generously took the time to participate in roundtable interviews on the second floor of the building, which once housed the former bank manager’s office.
While taking a break in the afternoon while the crew set up for her next sequence, Lind discussed her experience of stepping into the role of Molly Hartley in the follow-up, after the title character was originally played by Haley Bennett in ‘The Haunting of Molly Hartley.’ Lind was initially asked how she emotionally channeled the protagonist, as she was down-to-earth and relatable while not filming her scenes. “I think it’s all about my training,” she revealed, adding that the three weeks she was in character before the set visit were more energetic than the scenes she was shooting that day. She laughed as she added, “Today I’m just conserving energy-this is nothing!”
When then questioned about how Molly has changed and progressed from a teenager in ‘The Haunting of Molly Hartley’ to a young adult in the follow-up, Lind laughed as she noted, “She’s now possessed by the devil! For most of the movie I’m actually playing Satan, which I think every actor should have the chance to do in their career.” While the performer added that she was sometimes “a little spooked at night,” she also said that while a possessed character, “you literally take any impulse, no matter how perverse or disgusting it is.”
Lind also pointed that at the end of ‘The Haunting of Molly Hartley,’ the title character has fallen under the Devil’s spell, and fully embraced the pact that she entered into on her 18th birthday. But at the beginning of the sequel, “she extravagated herself from the cult, but it’s unclear to what extent. She’s now 24, and has become a partner in a major firm,” she revealed, and relished in the fact that her character is now successful. But “I think the Devil was lying dormant in her,” and became more prevalent in her life after she turned 24, she also noted.
The actress added that if she ever became too frightened during the film’s production, she would “call my husband and say, ‘I’m feeling a little freaked out right now.’ So he would have to talk me down a little bit.”
Monroe was asked earlier in the day about his experience of directing Lind in ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley,’ especially since he has previously worked with several other actresses in his earlier horror films, including Sarah Butler in ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ and Jemma Dallender in ‘I Spit on Your Grave 2.’ He acknowledged that he seems “to keep getting the female-driven movies. I like that, because I admire strong female characters.”
The director noted that he was drawn to Lind’s natural embodiment of showcasing the struggles of a strong female protagonist during her audition. “Not only was her audition unbelievable, she’s also natural and believable in an unnatural and unbelievable situation,” he revealed. But he also felt that it was important that the actress “have some resemblance to Molly, so that people could say, ‘That could be Molly six years later.’”
Monroe added that “Sarah has the quality I look for (in an actress, especially when I’m doing a genre film,” as she was able to bring a believability and sense of realism to the role. The director felt as though the film’s lead actress was able to effortlessly put herself in the situation that’s presented in the film and make it feel real.
The original audience of the PG-13-rated ‘The Haunting of Molly Hartley’ is also older now, and has grown up with the title character, Monroe also noted. Those viewers “don’t watch the same content anymore-they watch darker, more disturbing projects now. So this film (which is unrated) is a lot darker, dramatic and violent than the original,” the director revealed. “If you’re not pushing the envelope and just playing it safe, and aren’t taking any chances, than it’s not worth it.” But he added that he doesn’t think that excessive intentional gore is necessary to create a more complex follow-up story that will leave audiences thinking at the end.
While she admitted that she did become frightened of her experiences playing Molly at times on the set, Lind added that there wasn’t much of a way to research how, and prepare, to play someone who’s possessed, so she had to find ways to humanize the process. The method of “embodying evil is abstract and unrelatable, but I didn’t want the character to not be relatable.” She also added that she finds “the myth of Lucifer to be compelling. But I wanted to humanize the character, like Linda Blair did (in ‘The Exorcist’). I also wanted to show that there can be regret and joy, as well as lust and cruelty, but those emotions can go unchecked.” The actress noted that everyone can relate to all those human impulses, and let them be completely unrestrained.
Lind added that she had some time between when she auditioned and when she heard she landed the role of Molly. “I was doing another horror movie in Vancouver at the time,” the actress revealed. So she had to finish that movie first before she began prepping for ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley.’ “I had to prepare for the audition for this film, and that (preparation) didn’t really go away,” the performer explained. “I had just enough time to really connect to Molly before we began filming. If I had more time, I may have overthought and complicated things,” she also revealed.
When Sawa also discussed his involvement in the horror sequel, he revealed that when he found out that he was cast as Father Barrow, he was shooting ‘Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2,’ the sequel to his 1998 comedy-drama, ‘SLC Punk!’ “I had a lot of down-time on that movie, so I had about three or four weeks to prep for this film while I was finishing that one,” the actor explained.
Lind also disclosed that having that lengthy amount of time to prepare was beneficial, as she realized the two stories in ‘The Haunting of Molly Hartley’ and its new follow-up are extremely different. But the lead actress felt it was helpful to have the first movie as source material, as “I had (Molly’s) backstory in an hour-and-a-half package.”
When Holden took the time to elaborate about her experiences playing Molly’s psychiatrist in the sequel, she admitted that she hadn’t seen ‘The Haunting of Molly Hartley’ before signing to star in the new movie. “I was thinking about watching it before (we began filming), but I (decided that I) didn’t want it to influence me,” the actress said. She elaborated by saying that she didn’t want the performances from the original film to influence her take on the continued story. “It may be different for Sarah, but I’m completely separated (from the original story) as the psychologist,” as Dr. Hawthrone didn’t appear in ‘The Haunting of Molly Hartley.’ “I wanted myself to be taken on the journey as it was happening,” Holden further explained, before noting that she would be interested in watching the first film after they finished shooting its sequel.
Sawa also revealed that he wasn’t familiar with the original film when he signed onto play Father Barrow in the follow-up. “I’m going to see (‘The Haunting of Molly Hartley’) as soon as we finish filming. But my character isn’t supposed to know about anything that happened in the first movie,” he explained about why he didn’t watch the first film before he arrived on the set for its continuation. He then noted that Monroe also wanted him to also be surprised as an actor when he uncovered more details about the events that Molly went through in ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’s predecessor.
Monroe also discussed how he feels the sequel not only differs from other horror films, but exorcism movies in general. “There have been a lot of exorcism movies, so I think people are beginning to expect to see the same thing,” the director stated. “They have seen characters upside, bent and crawling on ceilings. But this film goes back to the classic era, while also remaining very modern,” he admitted. Monroe added that ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’ is continuously paying tribute to ‘The Exorcist,’ “which is, in my mind, the greatest movie about exorcisms, and overall horror film, ever made.”
Much like in ‘The Exorcist,’ the possessed main character in ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’ is treated by a priest contemplating his faith. Sawa revealed that Father Barrow was “a priest who was studying to perform exorcisms, and he was performing one that went terribly wrong…he started to question his own faith.” While the actor didn’t want to give too much information about his character’s backstory away, he did note that there were circumstances that led to the priest being placed in a psychiatric ward instead of a prison, as part of a compromise with the courts. Sawa laughed when he added, “Of course he ended up in the wrong psych ward, and things go sour.”
The transition into connecting with the priest’s mindset was an intriguing process for Sawa. He had just finished his four season-stint of playing Owen Elliot/Sam Matthews on The CW’s action crime drama series, ‘Nikita,’ before he signed on to play Father Barrow in ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley.’ “So I played an action guy and a bad guy, and then I had to tear that mindset right down,” the actor noted, before revealing that the priest in the horror film is “very soft-spoken, and he has good morals. So it was a stretch between the two characters, but it was fun to play. When I put the priest outfit on for the first time, it was pretty bizarre.” He laughed as he also mentioned that he started to watch his language, and admitted that he stopped swearing while making the follow-up film.
When he was first cast in the role of Father Barrow, and was finding the best way to relate to his character, Sawa said he “thought back to other priest roles I have seen in other movies…This is basically just an old-fashioned horror movie…I just want to make a good horror film, and not over-think it. I just want to entertain people.” The actor added that he strove to help make the sequel a good movie for genre fans “to watch on a Friday night, like ‘Pumpkinhead’ or ‘The Exorcist’ was….Of course I prepared (for the role of Father Barrow), but I didn’t over-think it.”
Sawa was also asked what the experience of working with Lind on the film was like, particularly when Father Barrow had to watch her title character become possessed. “She’s a tough girl-she’d get to the set four hours early to put the make-up and prosthetics on,” the actor responded. “She’d then morph into this Satanic creature, and it was great to play the scenes with her…She got right into it, and she’s a great actress.”
“The first time I see Molly, she’s already a demon,” Sawa noted when also asked about the emotional and physical transition Father Barrow witnesses in Molly throughout the film. The priest’s reaction to her progression is different from the other characters in the horror sequel, as he saw it before during his studies. So his character “goes in with the right questions to ask. Half-way during the first scene that I interact with her in, I already know she’s possessed. So I go to talk to Dr. Hawthorne, and I tell her we’re in big trouble.” Once he actually begins performing the exorcism scenes on the title character, Father Barrow’s “main tools are the cross, holy water and the Bible, of course, which I use to fight the devil.”
When asked if she found the process of actually playing the possessed Molly to be physically and emotionally demanding once they began filming, Lind replied that she didn’t find it to be too challenging. The actress revealed that the struggle of playing Lucifer “was very simple. I allowed myself to be physically relaxed and creative. I wanted to create spooky images, while also being completely uncensored.” She explained that she would let anything happen, and “that’s the way I think the best acting always happens.”
Also delving deeper into the logistics of the physicality of her role, Lind laughed as she added that she didn’t have a lot of time to practice the stunts with her co-stars. So they had to rely more on trust than anything else while filming their action sequences. “But thankfully, if I flinch, it works,” the actress amusingly pointed out.
“The make-up process was pretty crazy,” Lind also admitted as she began discussing the physical look of Molly, particularly as she started showing signs of her possession. The actress would sit in the make-up chair for four hours, and then would “film for 12 hours, which would include thrashing and being disgusting in every imaginable way.”
The actress admitted that “between set-ups and scenes, I wish I had a veil over my face,” as being in all the make-up wasn’t her favorite part of filming the horror follow-up. She added that when her co-stars and the crew would ask how her weekend was, she would quickly answer and walk away, so that they wouldn’t have to see her physical transformation. While she also divulged that she was “too vein” to go out in her character’s make-up, Lind did praise the work created by makeup department head Doug Morrow, describing all her looks that he created as “incredible and spooky.”
When asked about creating the makeup that the characters would wear throughout ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley,’ Morrow said he and Monroe discussed that they weren’t actually making a gore-filled movie. “So the big thing (I created) was the possession make-up for Sarah. She has four different stages of looking possessed,” he stated. The stages went from the main actress wearing contact lenses to full make-up that made her look “cadaverous…We have different stages of contact lenses and dentures,” the makeup department head and special makeup designer revealed.
“One of the things that I really liked about Steven is that he’s a practical effects guy. Doing makeup effects myself, I’m a big practical effects person,” Morrow explained. “We aren’t using CG blood…we’re instead using simple in-camera tricks that I think look really effective.” The makeup designer said he can spot when actors’ looks are added digitally after the shoot, which at times is beneficial. But “sometimes it’s better to use practical effects, and sometimes it’s good to use both…so that you can make the makeup look as realistic as possible,” he added.
When also asked about utilizing more practical effects than continuously infusing the horror sequel with CGI, Monroe proclaimed that he doesn’t think the decision will deter younger audiences’ interest in watching it. “I think the younger audience has seen all the CG they need to at this point. The real core of horror films when they first started becoming cult classics, and audiences started falling in love with them, was the make-up effects,” the director further explained. While helmers can create looks for their actors on a computer, Monroe added that process takes him out of the true filmmaking experience. “There is a little bit of CC in the film, but it doesn’t really have to do with the make-up effects. It’s all focused on the supernatural end of the story,” he further revealed.
Morrow also divulged that when he was first hired for the job to create the makeup for the possession film, he “immediately began thinking of ways that I would create the looks for the characters that were different from what’s been done.” He added “Luckily, I’m dealing with a character who’s in her mid-20s.” He felt it was easier to create the cadaverous look for the face of a performer Lind’s age than of Blair’s age when she portrayed the possessed pre-teen Regan in ‘The Exorcist,’ which he cited as an inspiration for his work.
The makeup department head added that “I actually did a test on my daughter,” who was 17 at the time of the shoot. “During that process, I came up with the design for Molly. I added a few elements from ‘The Exorcist’ that I felt we should stay away from, which I showed to Steven, and we did.” Morrow added that he had some lead time to develop the ideas for the make-up before he arrived on the set for the horror follow-up. “As soon as Sarah was cast, I got right to work, as I didn’t have a lot of time,” the makeup designer added, and also revealed that he created lesions on the actress’ legs and feet.
When then asked about working with the bile that Molly spews during her exorcism, Morrow said it didn’t really affect him, as he regularly deals with such effects on his job. “We were talking about the different ways to create the bile, and whether it should be dark or light,” he continued. “I mixed some dark color in it, which Steven liked.” He added that it was easy to clean off at Lind at first, but became more difficult when it then continued piling up as it was coming out of her nose and mouth. “But the main issue was making sure it stayed on (her face and around) her mouth, especially when she was screaming,” the makeup designer explained.
Lind also revealed that it’s “nice to not always have to be glamorous” in her films. She explained that if she’s always made up to look nice, she “can’t move my head, because my hair will get f*cked up. You also can’t eat, because your lips will get messed up.” But that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t “want to play characters who aren’t disgusting looking, but can also be messy and complex as humans are. That’s what’s interesting about all of us.”
While the performer added that she was happy she wasn’t always covered in the bile that was present in the film, she revealed that Holden was. “I was actually the one doing the vomiting, but it was still pretty gross,” Lind added, before admitting that she had the crew wipe it off of her between takes. She laughed as she added, “But it all started to feel normal, which was maybe the worst part. I started feeling normal being covered in puss, slime, blood and filth.”
Even though Dr. Hawthorne was covered in the bile during the shoot, Sawa revealed that he didn’t have to film any scenes with the bile during the shoot. The actor laughed as he said, “I actually nicknamed my co-stars sludge and puke, because they deal with all this bile and blood. There’s a lot of that going on around here. I did get sprayed a little bit, but they get the majority of it.”
When Holden was also asked how her character of Dr. Hawthorne fit into the overall story of ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley,’ she revealed that she’s a psychologist who’s working at the hospital where the title character is committed. The doctor “essentially wants to be there for (Molly), and figure out what’s going on. Laurie doesn’t really know what’s going on, but it’s her job to sit and talk with her patient during their therapy sessions,” the actress explained.
“I think her professional motivation is that she wants to figure out what’s going on” with Molly, Holden also noted. “She doesn’t initially think what’s going on is paranormal,” the actress further explained right before shouts were heard coming up from the horror film’s main set in the building’s basement. She laughed as she then explained, “This is always what I have to deal with! But we always have a lot of fun on set.” Monroe also laughed at the commotion when he first sat down for his interview later in the day, as the yelling picked up again. He then admitted, “That was me yelling up to Gina earlier.”
Going back to speaking about her character’s inspirations in helping her patient, Holden reiterated that it’s “Laurie’s job to diagnose what’s going with Molly…she can tell that inside, something’s definitely off, which is motivating her” to find out what’s truly going on with her patient, as she really cares about Molly.
“My character is there when a lot of the transition is happening,” Holden also revealed when then questioned if she fully witnesses Molly becoming fully possessed by the Devil. “Laurie doesn’t become possessed herself, but she is exposed to possession as she tries to help Molly through that process.” But the actress admitted that she felt as though her character was influenced herself, as she was so heavily involved in trying to save her patient. Holden laughed again as she confirmed Lind’s revelation that she was the one covered in the bile during Laurie and her patient’s interactions once Molly becomes possessed.
Holden continued by noting that she wished she could be witty and bug her co-star by saying Lind was “so hard to work with, but we instantly bonded. She’s so awesome. I didn’t know her before (the shoot), but I did know who she was, as we have crossed paths before.” Holden also stated that she has been a fan of her fellow performer’s work, as “she’s such an incredible actress. So I was really excited to work with her.” The supporting actress also noted that the material featured in ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’ naturally brought them together, so they’ve become like sisters on and off the set.
When then asked about her interactions acting with Sawa on the sequel, Holden stated that their characters’ relationship “was a little more professional, but it was friendly. Our characters knew each other in the past,” so Laurie approaches the former priest for help. She believes he’s the only person who she trusts could help Molly, as he has “the expertise and qualifications of performing the exorcism,” the actress revealed. So the doctor does rely on Father Barrow to help save Molly, as “there’s only so much that Laurie can do.”
Holden laughed as she stated, “I think somewhere after the bile explosion, Laurie realizes that the situation is a little out of her league. So I think I’m going to knock on some doors and get some help. But all jokes aside, she does realize that the situation is over her head.” The doctor wants to continue helping her patient, as Molly’s “still giving signs of fighting to get through this situation. But she needs help that Laurie can’t give her. So she reaches out to Devon’s character,” the actress added.
Monroe also discussed his working relationship with Sawa, and revealed that his first conversation with Sawa was through an email, when he asked the actor, “‘How do you feel about completely buzzing your hair?’ He emailed me back and said, ‘I’m into it,’ and the next day his hair was buzzed off. So I knew we were going to be on the same page.”
The director further explained that the actor “really cares about what he does and how it comes off, and if it is believable, which is my number one thing. I don’t care if you’re sitting there talking to the Devil; this needs to be believable.” Monroe added that Sawa “knows what he’s doing, which is always appreciated and a big relief. I’m a firm believer that if you cast properly, a major percentage of your work is done.”
Sawa also highly praised Monroe’s methods of directing, noting that he’s “always prepared. He comes to set and knows exactly what he wants shot-wise and performance-wise from the actors.” After the helmer and the cast agreed on how they wanted to portray each scene, the actor explained that Monroe would relay their decisions to the camera department. Sawa stated that he appreciated that dedicated approach the filmmaker took to making the horror sequel. “When a director’s confident, it makes the whole experience better,” the performer added.
The actor then explained that he was excited to delve into filming the sequel with Monroe and the rest of the cast and crew, as horror is his favorite genre to star in and watch. “Ever since I was a young kid, I’ve had a friend with whom I’d go down to the video store, and we’d find the goriest looking covers,” the actor said. “We rented every ‘Pumpkinhead’ and ‘Hellraiser,’ and watched them over and over again when we were 8, 9, 10-years-old.”
The performer added that “I also loved ‘Evil Dead 2’ and of course, ‘Army of Darkness.’ We used to practice the hand on the trampoline.” Sawa laughed as he then mentioned, “Of course, then this audition came along for this movie, ‘Idle Hands.’ It started off to be more of a serious film. But when I went into the audition, I started throwing myself around the room with my hand, like I did as a kid. Then all of a sudden, it morphed into a comedy.”
Sawa then mentioned that when he first heard that Monroe was going to direct ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley,’ he immediately wanted to become involved in the sequel. “I love Steven’s ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ film, so when I heard he was going to be involved in in this film, I wanted to get on board. The first thing he said to me was, ‘Go rent ‘The Exorcist’ and watch it over and over again, because that’s those are the tones and psychological scares that we want to go for with this film,” the actor explained.
Monroe also discussed his connection with ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’s writer, Matt Venne, who previously scribed the screenplays for several other horror sequels, including ‘White Noise 2: The Light,’ ‘Mirrors 2’ and ‘Fright Night 2.’ “When I came on board, there was already an initial draft, which I read. I then met with Matt and everyone at Fox, and we talked about we liked and didn’t like, and what we thought could get fixed,” the directed revealed. He added that everyone was mainly in agreement about the story, so he just had to discuss some fixes that he thought should be made to the screenplay with Venne.
Another working relationship that was discussed was Lind’s experiences of collaborating with Monroe on the set of ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley,.’ She admitted that “Sometimes he wanted more in my scenes, but usually it was something else.” She laughed as she recalled that “In one of the scenes, he told me, ‘I think you can actually be a little bit more of a pervert in his scene.’ But I didn’t really want to go there! But I did, and it was great,” she revealed, before adding that the experience was liberating.
Holden laughed as she also said revealed what it was like working with Monroe on the sequel. “Steven’s a whole other person to work with. He’s great to collaborate with, as he has such a great sense of humor. Even with this crazy, dark material, we’re still having such a great time…He keeps everybody balanced, and gets you exactly where you need to be.” Holden also praised the helmer for knowing exactly what he wants from everyone, and the best way to bring the story to the screen. The actress laughed again when she added, “He’s a chill guy, even though I know he wants me to say that he’s awful and we don’t get along.”
Monroe also praised his liberating and fun working relationships with the cast and crew of ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley,’ saying that “When you’re working with intense material, you have to take the edge off sometimes, and have a laid back environment on the set.” He admitted that out of the 20 films he has directed over his two decades-long career, “This is probably the best production experience I’ve ever had.” While the sequel marks his first time of filming in the Canadian city, he added that here’s a real professionalism in Winnipeg that he immediately noticed.
The filmmaker added that many movies that are being made today aren’t being shot in Hollywood anymore, and that “I’ve made one film at home in 10 years. With a lot of the current tax incentives, people think, ‘I can be in the film industry, and can make X amount of money and work with famous people.’” While there’s still a sense of passion for filmmaking in Hollywood, Monroe added that he was happy to see a sense of pride in filmmaking in Winnipeg. “It’s not just about getting paid for the day; it’s about having pride in the product,” Monroe revealed, and also noted his happiness that everyone was usually in agreement over how to carry out filming each scene. He also emphasized that the cast and crew’s ease of working together made it feel as though they were a family on the set.
‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’s Director of Photography, Jonathon Cliff, reaffirmed that sentiment of enjoying working with the cast and the rest of the crew. “Steven’s great to work with, as he’s pretty easy going. He’s a very optical director, and knows exactly what he wants, in terms of frames and lenses. He comes from a camera background, which has been great for me. It makes my job pretty easy,” the cinematographer continued. He added that the film was his first experience of working with a director who has experience working with cameras, and he enjoyed his collaboration with the filmmaker. “He’s not making choices that I don’t agree with…I totally agree with the direction he’s going in,” he further explained.
Monroe added that the aesthetic of the film is very different from its predecessor “in a lot of ways. My initial hope when I first had the discussion about this (project) was that we could make a stand-alone film.” He added that he was grateful to be given permission to approach the sequel in that way. “One of the reasons we did that was because when we left Molly six years ago (at the end of ‘The Haunting of Molly Hartley’), she was much younger. Now she and her audiences are much older and edgier,” the helmer explained as he echoed Lind’s chronicling of the title character’s maturing.
While the cast and crew relished in the emotional collaborations they created on the set, they also appreciated the physical aspects, as well. When asked about the experience of filming the title exorcism scene during the beginning of the horror sequel’s shoot, Lind revealed that it “was actually very liberating and strangely relaxing…If we shot the exorcism scene at the end of filming, I’d consistently be nervous thinking about it. So the scheduling was perfect.”
Lind also added that that Molly’s behavior when she’s possessed “make the story scarier. I think evil’s a choice…it’s there, but it’s not a force that we don’t have a power against.” Lind stated that when audiences do see the Devil played in a very human way, it can be a scary concept, as Molly’s choosing to be good or bad. But “I’m an actress who’s more concerned about the character than the scares. Steven’s also the type of director to be more interested in the psychological play in a horror film. So we had similar intentions from the beginning. But there will be plenty of blood in this movie,” the performer affirmed.
Holden also chimed in about the filming the title exorcism scene, particularly the physicality, as she revealed that she was “happy to say there is some action. Laurie really steps up and helps during the final phase of the exorcism. I love that she doesn’t just sit back; she jumps in and helps everybody.” While the actress couldn’t discuss too many details about her character’s involvement in helping to save her patient, she “does step in at the last minute and help save the whole situation.” She added that it was great that it was “a team effort throughout the process. My character steps up and says, ‘I need to get in here, and take this guy out before he takes her out.’”
The exorcism scene “really was extreme,” Holden admitted. “I have done a lot in this genre before. It’s interesting, because you can go in and out and pace yourself, in terms of the emotional depth of everything,” the actress continued while discussing the intensity of starring in horror films. “The scene took a few days, and (Lind) was in crazy make-up. It was terrifying.”
Holden also admitted that the paranormal subgenre of horror is “the only one I’m afraid of. In real life, it’s the only time I say, ‘I’m not going to watch that.’ But I love everything else in the horror genre and community…For days on end (while filming the sequel,), it didn’t take much to be freaked out,” the performer also revealed. She pointed out that was a result of “the environment, and the way that Steven’s shooting it, which is really creepy. Doug’s also doing such an incredible job on the make-up, which made it hard not to make it feel as though everything’s real.”
The actress added that for Lind, “she just has to go for it. There’s no holding back when you’re playing the Devil.” Holden also praised her co-star, saying “Her energy, and everything she’s putting (into the character) makes it easy for us to be pulled in.”
Monroe also noted that the final exorcism scene was one of the hardest ones to shoot, because they “combined every element that’s difficult in filmmaking.” Those components included practical and visual effects, stunts, intense acting, very heavy make-up effects and a lot of dialogue, which were all happening at the same time for a scene that last five pages. “We’ve all seen very cheesy devil worshipping scenes in movies, and I don’t want this to go there,” the director laughed as he added. “Again, this was a situation where we had to take something that’s real and make it intense and believe,” he further explained.
While the exorcism sequences were an overall emotional process for both the characters and the cast and crew to go through, Sawa noted that he wasn’t able to use his personal knowledge as an MMA fan to inform his physical performance in ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley.’ “I figure that Father Barrow hasn’t thrown a punch in his life. So my being a fan of MMA went out the window for this part,” the actor further explained.
“He is a hero in the story, but I won’t give too much away about that part of the story,” Sawa added when he further discussed that his character doesn’t resort to physical violence to achieve his goals. “He does become a hero, but not in an action way.”
When then asked if that part of his character’s development contributed to the head wound Father Barrow sustained that he was sustained during his shots during the set visit, Sawa laughed as he coyly asked, “Oh, you noticed that? There are some head wounds and stabbings, and some buckets of blood laying around.”
While the cast had to endure drastic emotional and physical situations while filming the sequel, Sawa noted that only having 20 days to shoot the entire movie wasn’t extremely difficult, since films are now made digitally. “There’s no more reloading of cameras, and we’ll be able to fix lighting during post-production. So 20 days is actually a sufficient amount of time to make a really great film,” the actor explained. He laughed as he added, “I’m sure directors would love to have 40 days, but I think we can make a pretty awesome film in 20 days.”
But Lind noted that ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’s limited shooting schedule was challenge in some respects. Since the follow-up was shot in about three week, “You usually need to go home and go to sleep and rest. But at the same time, you also need to have a bit of a life, so sometimes I do sacrifice sleep a little bit,” the performer admitted.
Since the characters had to sustain such emotional and physical circumstances so often during the short shoot, Holden noted that everyone joked around between takes. But “you also want to respect people’s space, especially Sarah. Since she’s in that make-up, she’s really isolated from everyone, but in less extreme circumstances, we definitely talk and laugh.” The actress added that there are times when the cast does prefer to totally be on their own between scenes, during which she meditates to stay grounded.
Holden also described the overall experience of filming in Winnipeg as “awesome. You never really know what you’re going to get into when you go onto a new set with new people. But I’ve had such great experience.” The actress embraced the fact that everyone in the cast and on the crew was “so professional. But we also have fun, and from the start, it’s been a blast.” She also described the city as charming and welcoming. “Being this far from home, there’s also this comfort of being able to all go out to dinner together after our shoots every day…I’d work here anytime,” she added.
Sawa also emphasized Monroe’s sentiment that shooting ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’ in Canada was a positive experience. “That was great, because you don’t hear about a lot of stuff going on in Winnipeg,” the Canadian actor laughed as he explained his enthusiasm for collaborating with the rest of the cast and crew in the city. “But from the moment I got here, everybody’s been so polite and nice. It’s a great crew, and they know what they’re doing.” Sawa added that he watched a lot of the daily shots they filmed throughout the city, and he praised the beautiful way they turned out.
‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’s production designer, Craig Sandells, said he wanted to find filming locations in Winnipeg that were “visually soulless…A lot of times, (the locations) feature beautiful white walls. It’s one of the few opportunities where I’ve gotten to work with just white, without someone saying, ‘Let’s put something on that wall, please.’”
Sandells added that the horror sequel didn’t only film in the city, but throughout the province of Manitoba. “The main location isn’t in the city…but there are a lot of great locations in Winnipeg. We’ve been in apartments, and (the Millennium Centre) is a treasure,” the production designer also said. He continued by noting that the sequel filmed many scene ins the building, as it has so many different looks.
The sets have long, white corridors that Sandells stated are reminiscent of the sets in ‘The Shining,’ which he credited as heavily influencing his designs. He felt the white sets provided “a higher contrast and pristine background” for the blood and gore that were present in ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley.’ “I don’t think the white backgrounds set up the feeling that something violent is going to happen,” the production designer mentioned, so when those shots do occur, they become more shocking.
Sandells also mentioned that Monroe wanted the locations to feel real, so that “when the gore does happen, people think, ‘That happened in that environment?’” As the production designer, Sandells also wanted the locations to appear seemingly normal at first glance. But as audiences look at them a bit longer, the further they get into the movie, “it seems like there’s something not right…You ultimately get a weird vibe from (the locations)…and don’t feel comfortable in the space.” The production designer added that while most of the locations are minimalistic, there were some scenes that they filmed in the Millennium Centre the day before the set visit that were some of the most elaborate and most decorated in the horror movie. He added that the building’s basement where the scenes during the set visit were being shot “is really creepy, and is a great space.”
Cliff also commented on the scene that was being filmed in the Millennium Centre’s basement during the set visit. The Director of Photographer, who placed the camera on a dolly on a track to show Molly’s entrance into the basement through her eyes, said that was a common practice he took during that scene. But it wasn’t a process he regularly utilized during the rest of the sequel.
The Director of Photography added that the Millennium Centre was in part supposed to serve as an abandoned complex that didn’t have power. So the characters “brought their own lighting. So the entire scene is just filled with work lights,” as there aren’t supposed to be any lights that work in the building, Cliff explained. “It’s actually worked out to be quite amazing so far, as I always prefer to use real lights instead of film lights,” he also said. The scene only features “Home Depot construction work lights, which I guess is what Satanists are using these days to perform their rituals,” he laughed as he theorized.
Sawa also laughed as he revealed he was also looking forward to shooting in an abandoned psychiatric hospital the following week. “There are some off-limit areas that I’m not supposed to go into. But I can’t wait to get there and find out about the history, and see the different areas, like the lobotomy section. That stuff really interests me,” the actor explained.
In order to figure out how to rightfully capture the entire look and point-of-view of the follow-up, Sandells said he put together a book of his take on the story before filming on ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’ began, like he does on all the movies he works on. He creates his vision of how the locations will look before he even meets the director, and when he’s finished he sends it to the filmmaker digitally. They then discuss whether his ideas are on the track the helmer also imagined. He added that he and Monroe agreed on many of his ideas.
“We had six weeks of prep, which isn’t a lot for films of this scale,” the production designer added. But he was able discuss what he wanted to visually communicate in the locations they did find and secure for the shoot. He also created detailed sketches of how each set would look, because “We wanted to make sure there weren’t any surprises on the day (of shooting at each location), because people hate surprises,” Sandells explained.
Much of the cast and crew of ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’ enjoyed that they took inspiration from such acclaimed horror films from the 1970s and ‘80s as ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Amityville Horror’ and ‘The Shining.’ While he admitted that he’s not a huge fan of watching horror movies, Cliff noted the approach he took to the overall visual look he took to his cinematography was inspired by classic movies in the genre. “There are a lot of wide shots that tend to slowly push in on things on wide lenses. It’s not a hand-held free-for-all vibe,” the cinematographer, who had never shot a horror movie before, explained. He embraced the fact that “It’s not so much of what I think of as a modern horror film.”
Sawa also admirably noted that Monroe was aiming to capture the vibe of popular horror movies from the 1970s and ‘80s, including utilizing the decades’ signature pushing and pulling shots. As opposed to the shakiness of the camera shots that are often utilized in modern horror films, including those in the found footage sub-genre, the actor praised the fact that Cliff often used Steadicam cameras to obtain the focused sequences.
When asked if ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’ ends in a way that will make a second sequel in the series possible, Monroe revealed that he thinks there always is a possibility for follow-ups in every franchise, no matter how they’re shot. “In this day-and-age in the film industry, there’s always that potential, because it’s less of a movie-making industry, and more about box office. It’s also about the product, and keeping things going for the fans,” the director stated. He added that he’s had the discussion about sequels with a lot of fans of the genre, and “we all need to either need to get on board and embrace it, or everything’s going to get done badly. So I think there’s always a potential for sequels if people respond to a film.”
Check out Shockya’s exclusive film stills, as well as the behind-the-scenes set visit photos and Blu-ray cover, for ‘The Exorcism of Molly Hartley’ below.
Written by: Karen Benardello