Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick have had an interesting trajectory. They co-directed The Blair Witch Project thirteen years ago, that “found footage” granddaddy which would prove not only to be an incredible success, but a great inspiration to genre filmmakers a decade later. Love it or hate it, Blair Witch is a milestone whose lasting impact can’t be ignored. While Myrick has made a few DTV clunkers, Sánchez has managed to make two DTV gems — Altered, a dark horror-comedy about alien abduction revenge, and Seventh Moon, a hand-held camera honeymoon nightmare in China. Worth checking out. So, how does his latest effort stack up?
Lovely Molly combines a traditional style with found-footage elements through a handi-cam Molly carries around with her. There’s usually a dumb excuse as to why the characters are carrying around a camera while they’re freaked out. Molly’s isn’t really that important, and given that it’s there to cut to and add a new angle to the suspense works well. Here’s why she’s got her camera out: Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and her new husband Tim (Johnny Lewis) have moved into Molly’s home she grew up in. Her parents have passed away, and this old place appears to be a fine nest for a first-year marriage. But the past hasn’t left the house, and soon Molly and Tim are dealt with those standard haunted moments. But what becomes very apparent soon after is that this isn’t a typical haunted house tale. Molly has secrets. And as we know: secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone.
Fortunately, the film IS a great deal of fun, though. But just when you’re having a good time, something comes along and reminds you how grim this story is. And at least 80% of the success is due to Gretchen Lodge. Where did this girl come from??? Sexy one minute, frightening the next, and every emotion inbetween — Gretchen is versatile and believable. She embodies Molly with a genuine unpredictability that manages to work its way through the screen and pierce your soul. She also isn’t afraid to show you just about every inch of her body. She allows herself to be emotionally AND physically naked; how often do you find a new Ashley Judd or a Charlize Theron that’s willing to do that? Johnny Lewis is decent in his role as the confused, frusterated husband, and also acceptable is Alexandra Holden, who plays Hannah, Molly’s sister who is connected to all of the madness.
Sánchez knows exactly what scares people: the unknown. Suspense is one thing, but to build that unknown fear and leave a constant sense of it to penetrate the entire film is a pretty special gift. This house is creepy, and you’re reminded of it constantly. In fact, I think there’s only one scene where I actually felt a sense of ease while anyone was in it, and even that is such a bizarre moment that you barely notice. Visually it’s impressive; shadows are everywhere, lighting is suitably dim, and when the film switches between the 3rd and 1st person perspective, it’s uncomfortable and intentionally so. All of this builds to some unexpected revelations and a white knuckle finish.
It’s not perfect by any means, however. It falls into a slew of familiar territories while getting to some unique ideas, and some genre trappings and stupid horror moments do show up. There’s also a very strange pace to the movie, and the jumps in time happen abruptly and suddenly, making it a bit difficult to exactly follow if we’re seeing footage from a future time or if it’s meant to be current. There are a lot of moments that appear to have been simply stuck into the film, and the pace feels a bit disjointed because of it. This isn’t really to a detrimental state, though. For me it added to the strange and unknown quotent. Others may not be as forgiving. This is a love it or hate it flick, absolutely. I was rather impressed by how much it got to me; it takes a lot to actually affect me when it comes to horror, and this managed to do that. It isn’t a happy experience, but it’s a weird ride, and it’s one that’ll stick with me for a bit. Maybe Molly will haunt you, too.