Directed by Eduardo Sanchez
Distributed by Image Entertainment
At last we have a film that fulfills the promise of The Blair Witch Project. While I’ve liked the subsequent features put out by Blair co-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, I’ve always hoped that they would one day be able to recapture the chills and frights from their debut feature. Now, finally, co-writer/director Sánchez has given horror fans Lovely Molly, a dark, character-driven horror film that is as emotionally gripping as it is scary as hell.
Beginning with a chilling found footage sequence that recalls one of Blair Witch’s more indelible scenes, Lovely Molly concerns Tim and Molly, newlyweds who have just tied the knot and moved into an isolated country home previously owned by Molly’s deceased parents. All is well until strange noises and a potential unseen intruder unnerve the two late one night. Tim, a truck driver, eventually has to depart for work, leaving Molly alone in the house. Doors that open and shut by themselves, strange whispering, unexplained noises and smells, and an overwhelming sense of dread all contribute to terrorizing the poor young woman, who has no one to turn to except her intermittently present husband and her skeptical yet caring sister, Hannah.
The strange events continue, pushing Molly to the very brink of insanity even as viewers learn about her deeply troubled past, which includes drug addiction and possible childhood abuse at the hands of her father. Is Molly enduring a haunting of some sort or perhaps a series of supernatural events? Or is she suffering from a mental breakdown? The movie stays ambiguous for the bulk of the running time, and even its finale will leave viewers guessing as to the true nature of Molly’s problems.
Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting much from this film when I’d first heard of it, even being a fan of Sánchez’s work. The synopsis didn’t sound terribly appealing, and the poster/cover art isn’t very effective (at least, perhaps, until after one has seen the film). Imagine my surprise, then, when I found Molly to be one of the better genre offerings I’ve seen this year. The film is genuinely engrossing, boasting three-dimensional characters and a truly disturbing, if simple, premise. During its best moments it recalls films such as Polanski’s Repulsion, Session 9, and even Blair Witch to a degree (there’s quite a bit of handheld POV footage throughout the film, captured by video enthusiast Molly’s camcorder). And while the conclusion may leave some viewers annoyed, this writer found it to be note perfect, ending with both a chill and a question that will stay with you for some time after the credits have rolled.
It’s a testament to the talent both in front of and behind the camera that we care so much about the characters going through this ordeal. The script and direction are both fantastic, each equally concerned with keeping the human beings believable as much as executing the “boos” and the “gotchas”. As Molly, actress Gretchen Lodge is nothing short of stunning. Her performance is award-worthy as she runs the gamut from innocent woman to terrified victim to predatory seductress, all while keeping the audience sympathetic to her plight. Also wonderful is Alexandra Holden, playing Hannah. Holden has a lot to do, opening the film as a foul-mouthed wild child and closing it as the strong-willed, caring anchor that her sister needs. If a sequel is eventually made, here’s hoping it revolves around her character. Johnny Lewis does a fine job as Tim, portraying a man who loves his wife, even while her increasingly deranged behavior exasperates him, all while keeping the audience on his side (until the last reel, perhaps).
The only hiccup comes in the third act. When the true “threat” is finally revealed, the following sequences of violence and bloodshed, while disturbing, pale in comparison to the suggested violence and implied horror of the film’s first two thirds. In addition, one character’s betrayal of another rings somewhat false, given all that’s come before.
This shot on digital feature looks pretty great on disc and is rather sharp and beautiful to behold. While the blacks do occasionally look weak during many of the darker scenes, it rarely distracts one from the film. The audio is pretty wonderful, doing a great job of reproducing the film’s effective, chill-inducing sound design.
The bonus features section may be small, but it packs a punch. Aside from the effective theatrical trailer and a commentary with Sánchez and co-writer Jamie Nash, we have four mini-documentaries (each running under ten minutes) set within the world of the film. These are all very Curse of the Blair Witch as they delve into the various aspects and backstories supporting the movie’s events and treats them as true life incidents. These shed some light and provide answers to some of the lingering questions left by the film’s conclusion. Unfortunately, the illusion that the events of Lovely Molly are real is undone by the mini-doc’s insistence that the movie is indeed a film one can watch within the world of the documentaries, all while reusing some of the film’s main and supporting actors as interviewees within each piece. That might’ve worked had Molly been a full found footage flick. But it wasn’t so the illusion fails. Still, they’re well-made and fascinating to watch and are certainly worth a look to those who enjoy the film.
Ultimately, Lovely Molly may not be perfect, but it’s a damn sight more impressive than most theatrically released genre films these days, and it’s a shame that a film this strong couldn’t secure a wide release. While its slow-burn sensibilities may annoy some viewers, those looking for a truly frightening flick with strong characters and no easy answers would do well to give Lovely Molly a gander.
– Path to Madness
– Haunted Past
– Demonic Forces
– Is It Real?
4 out of 5
3 out of 5