Lovely Molly review

Lovely Molly is a new horror film from one of the creators of The Blair Witch Project, Eduardo Sánchez. Along with Blair Witch co-director and cp-writer Daniel Myrick, Sánchez kickstarted the modern trend for found footage horror films (yes I know all about Ruggero Deodato, but Blair Witch made the style a box office phenomenon). Of course 13 years ago Blair Witch was shot on actual film stock. The increasing availability of cheap, light and easy to use digital equipment has caused the style to really boom in the last few years. So when Lovely Molly starts with camcorder footage of a distressed young woman holding a knife to her throat, complete with onscreen date and recording indicator, looking cruddy, and like every other found footage piece of tat from the last few years, one’s heart sinks. Surely one of the innovators of this style would have something else up his sleeve after all this time?

Well, ha ha, mischievous Eduardo is playing a joke on the audience. Lovely Molly is not a found footage film at all. After this feint of an opening the film switches to a more traditional style only occasionally reverting to the camcorder footage (which has a clear narrative purpose). I like to think this is the director’s little joke, but it is the only humour to be found in the next 90 minutes.

Recently married couple Molly and Tim have moved into the rural home of Molly’s late parents. They are awoken one night by their burglar alarm. Hearing footsteps downstairs they call the police. The cop does a sweep but although the backdoor is open there are no signs of forced entry. It gets chalked up to an accidental alarm, although later Tim is sure he locked the door. This is just the first in a series of frightening and apparently inexplicable events that befall Molly. Tim is a truck driver and left in the house alone she comes to believe she is being menaced by a supernatural force. She confides in her sister and thinks this is connected to their troubled childhood and possibly abusive father. The difficulty is that Molly has a history of drug abuse and mental illness, and those closest to her are more inclined to believe that events may be in her mind only. Left alone, Molly’s physical and mental health begin to rapidly deteriorate.

The film’s key trick is that it makes sure the audience is no more certain than her husband and sister as to whether the events are real of imaginary. This isn’t a new trick, but where most films play one or the other line as key before pulling the rug on the audience in the final act Lovely Molly carefully gives the viewer reason to believe that either interpretation is may be the correct one.

Covering a lot of very similar ground to The Silent House and its US remake but more successful than either, Lovely Molly shows a clear example of the benefit of not building a film around a cinematic gimmick. There is a reason that editing and shooting styles have developed over the 100 plus years of the art-form. Not that innovation is in any way bad, but here Sánchez uses the  camcorder elements sparingly and effectively. This film would not have worked as a found footage movie. For one thing the unsettling and oppressive sound design and music (by US post rock group Tortoise) which is a key factor in the film’s atmosphere would not have made sense in that context.

In the lead role Gretchen Lodge gives a committed performance, the part requires her to be physically and mentally abused, and also very often naked (this is anything but exploitive nudity). It’s a brave performance and the film builds the mounting hysteria and madness slowly rather than hammering the foot on the accelerator. More chilling and unsettling than outright scary the film successfully builds a feeling of oppressive dread. The final stretch is very dark indeed, and there is enough violence, drug abuse and onscreen nudity to make the BBFC certificate quite surprising.

Lovely Molly does not break any new ground, but in a year that has so far seen very few horror films of worth gain theatrical releases it is a very successful psychological thriller that is definitely worth seeing if your tastes run to the macabre.

Lovely Molly at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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