25th Jun2020

‘The Haunting of Molly Bannister’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Tiana Rogers, Susan Lee Burton, Emmeline Hartley, Grant Kempster, Chloe Badham, Bam Goodall, Liza Keast, Jake Kempster, Paul Rogers | Written and Directed by MJ Dixon

Following the DVD debuts of likes of Cleavers and Pandamonium, The Haunting of Molly Bannister (formerly known as Bannister DollHouse) is the latest release from the British independent film company Mycho, made up of MJ Dixon and Anna Dixon – the husband and wife filmmaking team behind the Mycho Entertainment Group brand; whose deal with 101 Films to get their titles out to a wider, horror-hungry UK audience is really working it seems – this is another Mycho title that has hit the DVD charts in shops (and supermarkets) across the UK.

The Haunting of Molly Bannister is apparently a spin-off from the Slasher House series and already the subject of a short film. I say apparently as I haven’t seen Slasher House 2, where Molly Bannister first made her appearance – as did the killer from Pandamonium and it didn’t hurt that film having not seen Slasher House 2 either. A shared universe in horror is nothing new (just look t Hammer’s output for instance), but it’s an interesting concept and one the echoes the work done more recently in the Marvel movies, only in reverse…

Here Mycho made a film featuring bunch of villains, Slasher House 2, where the monsters are merely one-dimensional tropes; then in subsequent works they’re exploring said villains and giving them back stories, fleshing out their characters – which can only then feed back into the original film, making it somewhat more complex if you revisit it afterwards (as the final title card suggests: “The story continues in Slasher House 2”). Hell, people have even dubbed these films the Mycho universe or ‘Mychoverse’! I do wonder though, given that their films are being released now to a wider audience, whether this shared-universe concept can continue… It will certainly please genre fans but I do wonder if the likes of Pandamonium and this film will appeal to the same members of Joe public?

Anyway, back to The Haunting of Molly Bannister. The film tells the story of the titular family, the Bannisters. Opening with a flashback to a 2014 family video in which Molly is given a doll for Christmas. A doll that creeps out her elder sister Sherry; and with good reason… She’s dead by the end of Christmas Day at the hands of said doll, with their father, Kenneth, arrested for the crime.

Jumping forward six months, Kenneth has left the family home – leaving the Bannister women all alone in their house with Molly the doll! Of course being all alone in a house with a killer doll, the family begin to feel that something is very wrong; their family home starts to feels menacing. The youngest sister Molly is getting “sick”, there are strange noises in the night and a constant feeling that they are being watched. What is wrong with Molly, and why does her doll seem to appear everywhere they go? Yes, we’re in Child’s Play-esque territory here. Though given this is a female doll, more like Dolly Dearest territory!

Unfortunately for The Haunting of Molly Bannister, comparisons to other killer doll franchises probably don’t help. Especially considering the kinds of budgets Mycho are working with – much lower than the aforementioned genre films that’s for sure. But that’s not to say working on a low-budget is a detriment to this film. It’s not. As usual the Dixon’s know how to make their budgets work for them, where to compromise and where not to. Though in this case it does look like they’ve struggled with how to represent a killer doll on a budget, oftentimes cutting corners and having the doll just “appear” in a jump-scare moment rather than showing it fully alive and moving around.

Don’t think however that The Haunting of Molly Bannister relies on jump scares – yes the film uses them frequently but it also supports them with some superb building of tension. Both in terms of direction and staging and in the soundtrack which, along with the use of vivid colours in the lighting, remind me very much of Italian horror: the films of Dario Argento and the use of overwrought strings in a myriad of giallo films.

The antithesis of the likes of Mycho’s Cleavers and Pandamonium, The Haunting of Molly Bannister is not your typical over-the-top, in your face horror, instead it is a slow-burning, creep-inducing supernatural horror that focuses on characters and storytelling whilst providing plenty of scares along the way. And what’s not to love about a terrifying killer kid and her equally deadly doll?

The Haunting of Molly Bannister is out on DVD now from 101 Films.


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