Ah, the unblinking camcorder eye. Just what does it see? In co-writer and director Eduardo Sanchez’s Lovely Molly, that red eye records plenty of disturbing images but none more terrifying than a mind unwinding due to dark family secrets and serious drug abuse. “It wasn’t me,” says newcomer Gretchen Lodge into the camera lens as the titular Molly. What it actually was is something that defies logical explanation and remains a mystery in this deeply unsettling look at genuine American horror. The film is not without its flaws and frays but manages to overcome the negative with fine dramatic tension and some serious bouts of subtly.
If the movie’s first shot – a weary and teary-eyed Molly (Lodge) with a knife to her throat in a suicide attempt – doesn’t get your attention and cause you to flinch then you might just be dead. Delivered with a pleading and forceful tone, it is wise to both feel sympathy for and fear Molly. From this sudden angst we soon rewind to Molly’s marriage with Tim (Johnny Lewis) – via camcorder - and watch as they move into her dead parents’ former farmhouse. The two-story homestead is cold and yet inviting from the outside. Molly and Tim are hoping to bring a new sense of “home” into it.
What they don’t know is that there’s still plenty of life still living in it.
Rather quickly, Molly discovers that voices from her past haunt the closets, the rooms, and the worn down barn. As a truck driver, Tim is gone from the farmhouse for long periods and Molly’s mental faculties are tested with off-screen noises, whispers, and her father’s voice. She is followed by his negative spirit both in and out of the house and the memories of his abuse possess and overtake her sense of reality. Tim thinks its her return to heroin and her sister, Hannah (Alexandra Holden), thinks its living in her parent’s house.
Only Molly knows the truth. No one is to be trusted; not even herself.
While a portion of Molly’s journey takes place via camcorder, the bulk of the story comes from traditional film techniques. It makes for a disorienting mix of media which, I suppose, is the point as she documents the brutal return of her father’s spirit. Long stretches of Lovely Molly are dark and demented and test the audience’s senses with acts of unspeakable brutality. Other moments are drained of logic and simply too surreal to serve a purpose.
Things do more than go bump in the night. Unfortunately for us, those things remain largely unseen and lack real definition leading us to question just what we, as an audience, are to understand about Molly’s condition. Why is she so strong and yet so weak as to be unable to actually fend off the coming storm unleashed by her presence of the homestead? Co-writers Jamie Nash and Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project) attempt to offer explanations with hallucinatory sequences and invisible enemies but, as it becomes clear, have little interest in making things and events actually reach a level that makes sense to the audience. Their subtlety is to be commended as it is very striking in moments of panic and heightened drama but, as the madness takes over, some confirmations from the sparse dialogue would have been nice.
The impression that Lovely Molly leaves with its audience is seriously disturbing as we are forced to accept the bizarre fate of a doomed heroine and her sister. Twisted with a pervasive sense of dread and haunted house terror, the graphically frail reality of the film will leave some scratching their heads and others terrified, wanting to seek solace in the bottom of their bucket of popcorn.
Lovely Molly works on its simple haunted house/haunted person momentum. Don’t confuse yourself looking for answers to some of the skeletons hanging in her closet. They are busy haunting the house down the road. Maybe even yours.
MPAA Rating: R for strong disturbing violence and grisly images, some graphic sexual content and nudity, drug use and language.
Runtime: 100 mins.
Director: Eduardo Sánchez
Writer: Eduardo Sánchez, Jamie Nash
Cast: Alexandra Holden; Johnny Lewis; Gretchen Lodge; Lauren Lakis; Ken Arnold
Genre: Horror | Drama
Tagline: Lovely Molly
Memorable Movie Quote: "It's probably just some neighborhood kids."
Distributor: Image Entertainment
Official Site: www.lovelymolly.com
Theatrical Release Date: No theatrical release
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: August 28, 2012
Synopsis: When newlywed Molly Reynolds returns to her long-abandoned family home, reminders of a nightmarish childhood begin seeping into her new life. A malevolent force, whether her own haunted past or some supernatural ‘thing,’ tirelessly seeks to overwhelm her. Alone and isolated in a centuries-old manor, she soon begins an inexorable descent into depravity. Somewhere in the house, in the terrible space between psychosis and possession, lies an evil that will pull Molly and all those around her into darkness and death.
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - August 28, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc: Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Region A (reviewed)
The spotty 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode from Image Entertainment is generally satisfying but won’t please die hard HD enthusiasts. It was shot digitally but is surprisingly dull and flat with little fine detail inside rooms and on clothing fabrics. Shadows are strong and heavy in the poorly-lit interiors and colors, while consistent, are simply adequate with black levels being the strongest. Facial features are soft and fall a little on the pale side of the spectrum while some of the exteriors are sharp in contrast. Throughout the presentation, though, banding is an issue and creates some serious detractors from shadow scenes and blooming elements in the daylight. As should be expected, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack makes a world of difference in the quality and soars with great sonics when the picture doesn’t.
- This might be the most boring commentary ever recorded. Director Eduardo Sanchez and co-writer Jamie Nash simply narrate the on-screen action and, with Sanchez’s amazingly monotone delivery, it makes for a grueling listening experience where the obvious is pointed out.
It might have been 13 years ago, but Sanchez takes a cue from his Blair Witch days and allows the supplemental material to present the events of Lovely Molly as if they actually happened. It’s odd and only slightly interesting. Amusing and slightly odd is more like it. The four featurettes are full of professional voiceover narration and explore mental illness, background information, the haunted history of the house, some of the symbols found on the walls of the house, and interviews with cast and crew about the filming of the movie inside a possible haunted house.
- Path to Madness (7 min)
- Haunted Past (7 min)
- Demonic Forces (7 min)
- Is It Real? (7 min)