MAY 19, 2012
I didn't actually realize until I was about to leave for the theater - Lovely Molly is the first theatrical release from either of the men behind Blair Witch Project since 1999, when that landmark film reinvigorated the horror genre (and made taking chances on indie horror a viable option again). Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick have sadly not made a film together since, and their DTV efforts have been mostly well-intentioned but ultimately underwhelming, and I was starting to wonder if they were ever going to deliver again.
Well, Molly isn't exactly a slam dunk, but it's the best from either of them (Sanchez, in this case) since Blair, and that alone is cause for celebration. Without a high concept or an overstuffed cast, it's a "back to basics" affair that mostly takes place in an isolated home, focusing on one woman for a hefty chunk of its runtime; her husband and sister show up often, but this is really Gretchen Lodge's show, a remarkable feat considering this is her first movie and yet she's in just about every frame.
With shades of Repulsion, Lodge's Molly is clearly an unbalanced woman. Her husband is a truck driver who is often gone, and as we discover throughout the film, she's had trouble with drugs and abuse at the hands of her father. So she's lonely and disturbed already, and now it seems that she is being targeted by a malevolent spirit of some sort. Or is it another symptom of her mental instability? Like many a film of this type, there's enough evidence to support either theory - for example, the alarm goes off and bumps are heard by her AND her husband, but then again, the cops are unable to find anything. Video surveillance shows her acting very strangely in a hallway, but was she being attacked, The Entity style? Sanchez never really comes down hard on either answer, though the final scene (involving another character) seems to suggest that there's certainly more here than "she's nuts".
There's also a bit of a found footage element, either to give the Blair Witch fans a shoutout or just to fragment the POV even further with footage that has to be legit (to quote Blair Witch 2: "video doesn't lie"). It's not overused, and you gotta pay attention to the date on the bottom to keep it all straight, but it makes up the bulk of a chilling subplot involving what I assume are remote neighbors. This stuff definitely could have used some more clarification; in addition to it being unclear how far their houses were apart from one another (which would help explain a subplot about the husband), it also has no real setup - as if Sanchez edited out a scene or two that established these characters.
The movie ends with a URL for the movie's official site, and it's no surprise that, like Blair, there is some intriguing (and far-reaching) backstory barely hinted at in the film, if at all. We learn that the house was built on Indian land, that previous owners were obsessed with the occult, and that Molly's father was most likely responsible for the death of a social worker (we also see exactly how he died, which makes a particular event in the film resonate a bit more, shades of "Mike in the corner" in Blair). I love that Sanchez is still following this idea that the film is only part of the story; even if neither component measures up to Blair's (if you recall from my review, I was a Blair obsessive for quite some time - I've even read "The Secret Confession Of Rustin Parr"!), it's still proof that he's interested in making films that aren't as straightforward and soulless as most mainstream fare. And like before, this stuff isn't necessary (if anything it just adds more questions), but if you dug the movie and/or its story, it's awesome that there's more of it to explore beyond what we saw in theaters. I fully expect a packed DVD when it hits stores, and I look forward to going through it.
The film won't be for everyone - it's rather slow paced, and the ambiguity can be a bit much (particularly around the sister character, played by Alexandra Holden - what's up with her leaving the house when they were younger and merely asking their father to leave Molly alone?), but it works in that unnerving, "this is not what I was expecting" way, especially when more of the backstory becomes clear and certain characters meet gruesome fates. But if you felt Silent House's twist was poorly delivered, or that too much of the film was in service of its one-shot gimmick, then this, which covers similar ground, should be more to your liking if you're patient.
What say you?
P.S. My friend was the only other person in the theater - come on, LA horror fans! Go out and support those rare original horror films that get a theatrical release! It's the only screen in town playing it, so there's no excuse for a totally empty auditorium.