Lovely Molly

By
Paul Martinovic

Since the unexpected and unprecedented success of The Blair Witch Project in 1999, co-writer and co-director Eduardo Sanchez has been languishing largely in DTV horror and TV movies, while the found-footage genre he did so much to popularize has continued to expand without him. The upcoming release of Lovely Molly marks his long-awaited return to theaters, and his triumphant return to the shaky-cam that previously served him so well.

Newlywed Molly Reynolds (Gretchen Lodge) returns to her family home after a long period of absence. Frequently left alone in the house by her husband (Johnny Lewis), who spends much of his time away on business, she begins to keep a video diary of a number of strange disturbances around the house, which eventually leads to Molly confronting some dark, long-buried secrets about her troubled childhood.

Despite Sanchez status as a pioneer in the sub-genre, it turns out Lovely Molly isn’t really a typical found footage film at all. For one thing, the vast majority of the film is properly lit and filmed on a set by actual cameramen; but more importantly it’s horrors are primarily slow-burning and psychological, sharing more DNA with Polanski’s legendary ‘Apartment trilogy’ than the crouch-and-boo! frightfests of Paranormal Activity or [Rec]. This only serves to make the scattering of POV sequences feel extraneous, and the video diary conceit never really feels adequately explained or justified in the context of the film.

For the first hour at least Lovely Molly is a decently effective piece of horror - the sound design in particular is excellent, and the original score from Chicago post-rockers Tortoise is impressively doomy and foreboding. Sanchez demonstrates himself to be a more than capable horror director, knowing how to frame his shots for maximum effectiveness, while rarely resorting to fast cutting or easy jump scares. He’s also not afraid to tackle the hefty subject matter head on, with a refreshingly restrained and patient approach that is rare in a genre more susceptible to pandering and lazy box-ticking than most.

While this ambition is do something different with horror is plain to see, ultimately, Sanchez’s script isn’t intelligent enough to explore the heady psychosexual territory it clearly wants to with any real clarity, and it muddles through a series of seemingly disconnected ideas, images and plot twists until the dam finally bursts in a preposterous and largely incoherent third act.

It’s a shame, because there are still a number of interesting ideas and moments in Lovely Molly, and the opening stages remain impressively crafted.  There’s enough here to suggest that Sanchez’s next film should still be one to watch for horror fans, but Lovely Molly ultimately still has to go down as a failure, if an occasionally admirable one.

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