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August 29, 2012

Lovely Molly

(2011, Dir. by Eduardo Sanchez.)

I have no idea where to start when it comes to Lovely Molly. This is a horror film that pulls the viewer in several directions, doing an impressive job of working through several layers of horror as it progresses.  This means that Lovely Molly is certainly a difficult film to deal with - there are moments that are utterly confusing right up until the last five minutes - but once the end credits rolled I realized I was enthralled by what I had just seen.

Mixing traditional filmmaking with a pinch of hand-held DIY seasoning, the film follows Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and Tim (Johnny Lewis), two newlyweds who have moved in to her childhood home in the country.  That sentence alone surely will raise a flag for horror fans - unused and old country homes never have been portrayed well in horror cinema - but the film doesn't take long to establish that this is more than a routine haunt-and-scare piece of fiction.  Molly, being the character who is closest to her setting (that darn Tim is conveniently "away" for work at plenty of the wrong times, and also she grew up there), begins to experience strange things as she gets reunited with her old home.  We only see parts of what she sees - along with some disturbing home video footage - and we're thus treated to an enigmatic plot that offers many potential reasons for Molly's changing fortunes.

Lodge, a first time actress who has no biographical information online that I can find (which means that she might be an ActressBot2000, but I won't accuse), is the first great thing about the film, as she grabs on to the title role and really makes the character something special.  To say that the character is going through some personal issues is an understatement, but the unique thing about Lodge's portrayal of Molly (and the way the character is written) is that the film tends to shy away from convincing the viewer that the events around her are entirely supernatural.  Molly's family issues - including drug use and potential sexual abuse - push the film in the direction of a dark and personal drama.  Questions about the validity of her fears should stick with the viewer for some time.

Director Eduardo Sanchez, one half of the team that was behind The Blair Witch Project, handles it all here (he also wrote and edited the film), and his past experience shines through.  Just as the actors in that film were - We still have that image of a weeping Heather Donahue snotting on the camera as she explains her predicament stuck in our heads, don't we? - Lodge and her co-stars are allowed to give intensely personal performances as they deal with the plot's developments.  Lodge bares herself physically and emotionally throughout the film, which only solidifies her command over the role.  At the same time, the director draws upon the imagery that makes a horror film great, and there are plenty of dark and dreary sequences that build an incredible tension.

The virtuoso performance and the eternally shifting plot come together to  lead up to a bold final 15 minutes of the film, a sequence of events that will answer some, but not all, of our questions about Lovely Molly.  I found myself completely taken aback by the final reveals, and the end of Molly's journey had my eyes wide open as the film went to a place I didn't really expect. An added epilogue scene only makes the film more haunting, and it left my mind open to consider where the film's central ideas could go next in the film's universe. 

With a knowledge of the film's stopping point now in my mind, I've got the movie running again in the background as I type this. As I watch the events come together again from the corner of my eye, I'm more and more convinced that my initial awe at the closing of the film was justified.  Lovely Molly is not an easy horror film to watch - like many of the great horrors, it touches too close to home at times and leaves plenty to our imagination at others - but once I saw all the pieces together I found the whole product to be a fantastic viewing experience.  This is one of the most ambitious new horror films in some time, and any fan of serious human horror should find a way to see Lovely Molly as soon as they can.


Unknown said...

Lodge is fantastic, but this was a massive disappointment.

deadlydolls said...

Between your writeup and Cortez's, I'm really looking forward to this one.

: said...

Loved this one. Movies that leave me scratching my head, not knowing WTF I just watched . . . well, they usually do nothing but piss me off. But this was one that I didn't mind that aspect at all, when it was over, because everything that came before that ending was so great. LOVELY MOLLY was so effectively creepy, so *moody*, I've been thinking about it ever since I watched it a few months ago. I recommend it to everyone I know. I'm not sure why it worked for me, but it did. Bigtime.

Great review!