Lovely Molly (2011)
(15) Running time: 99 minutes
Director: Eduardo Sanchez
Writer: Eduardo Sanchez, Jamie Nash
Starring: Gretchen Lodge, Johnny Lewis, Alexandra Holden
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Horror is a funny old world: if it isn’t zombies behaving like zombies, or slasher films behaving like slasher films should, then there is the gore-fest’s playing by the rules of plenty of blood, guts and boobs. Then there’s the torture-porn, the ghostly horrors, the monsters and the found footage. However, every once in a while something rather special comes along, films that take a deep step further into not so much new territory, but new ways to present their story, with a heightened sense of menace and creepiness made all the more effective by out of place top class acting and a care and consideration to allow the viewer to become completely immersed. Session 9 pulled it off over ten years ago, and films like The Torment, Outcast and last years The Woman, and now Eduardo Sanchez has added to that list with Lovely Molly.
Make no mistake, this is serious horror: dark, intense and incredibly menacing and at times intensely frightening. One half of the Blair Witch Project team, Sanchez has since made films like Seventh Moon, Altered and the doomed Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows. Lovely Molly, however, is his new masterpiece, and one of the finest horror films you are likely to see all year. The film concentrates on a young newlywed named Molly (a terrific Gretchen Lodge) and her possible downward spiral into madness. Is the madness genuine, or is there something more sinister going on? Cleverly Sanchez never quite answers the question, and leaves the film open to discussion whereas the final scene may lead some viewers to be swayed. However, most of the film is merely a suggestion, and it is up to you, the viewer, to decide whether you believe Molly is actually going mad or not. However, the film is not just as simple as that, and there is a deep routed trauma to the fragile Molly, and throughout the film we learn snippets of her past.
The film opens in a sort of homage to the film which made Sanchez and his writing and directing partner, Daniel Myrick, overnight sensations. We witness Molly filming herself in a scene which will remind viewers of Heather’s collapse on screen in the Blair Witch Project, only here Molly is apologising for something she has either done, or is about to do. An attempt at suicide sets the dark tone of this claustrophobic nightmare, and suddenly we skip to more handheld camera as we whizz through Molly’s wedding and her marriage to truck driver Tim (Johnny Lewis). The pair move into Molly’s dead parents house, and it is here things begin to go wrong. The first instance is a very effective scene where both Molly and Tim hear something downstairs, and investigating, Tim goes down in the dark to see and is quickly frightened and runs back upstairs. In a clever move, an unseen presence follows him, and you can hear the footsteps. The police are called thanks to a state of the art alarm system and put it down to “the wind”. However, don’t be fooled, this police officer does appear concerned and there Sanchez has already broken one of the usual rules in horror where the police are usually idiots. A smart move, and from this point on the film moves into increasingly darker territory as Tim spends a lot of time away, and Molly is left in the house alone.
She has a history with drugs, and on her birthday we learn that she had a real problem with them when her sister smokes a joint while an already distraught Molly watches. Molly’s sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden) seems to be Molly’s rock, her support in the absence of Tim, and the two actresses act their hearts out when sharing the screen, which makes the forthcoming events so much more difficult to swallow. Things do go wrong, things do get out of hand and the film wonders into areas of horror that, in the wrong hands, could go incredibly badly. Sanchez proves himself a master of his art here and what he brings to the screen is a savage, brutal and unsettling examination of a woman on the brink of mental collapse. Molly hears things in the house, an incredibly creepy voice calling her name, doors rattle, a young woman cries and horse hooves can be heard walking around at night. These sound effects often become too frightening to handle, but Sanchez wants more and adds in some horrific music and rumblings of deep, dark noise to crank up the tension. It works, and there were scenes here where I was genuinely scared to look, and that does not happen often for me. Molly’s downward spiral is made all the more real by a terrific performance by Lodge, you actually see her quite literally become a different person, and the later, sexual and violent scenes are shocking and quite hard to watch. However, Lodge’s performance may be the winner here, and one of the finest performances you are likely to see in a horror this year, but her support from both Holden and Lewis is equally good. Both these actors deliver incredible performances, and the acting, along with Sanchez raw, uncompromising directing, should be applauded.
I went into Lovely Molly not knowing an awful lot about it, and I really did benefit from that, and while this may have not found its home at UK cinemas, it would be a crime for this not to sit on the shelves of every horror fans collection. This is exceptional stuff, powerful movie making and totally uncompromising. Sanchez has come a long way from the Blair Witch Project, and here he truly stamps his authority over the horror community. Lovely Molly is intense, frightening and very very unsettling. There are images here that will haunt you for weeks, maybe months later, and thanks to such an impressive performance by Lodge, unfortunately Molly is not a character you will forget in a hurry. Exceptional stuff and a welcome return of a true horror master.