"Lovely Molly - sounds scary doesn't it?..."
I know what you're thinking. The title Lovely Molly - sounds scary doesn't it?
In fairness Eduardo Sanchez's production is somewhat chilling, as we follow the story of Molly, played by Gretchen Lodge, a newlywed who moves into her deceased father’s house along with her husband Tim (Johnny Lewis). The recovering heroin addict is however haunted by past memories of her abusive relationship with her father, and moving back home triggers these unwanted flashbacks.
Despite having a shoulder to cry on in the form of her sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden), as Tim spends so much time away working, the damaged Molly just can't escape her past as she struggles to overcome her troubled history, her mental state and tolerance both suffering, with a potential relapse on the cards. But can Molly defeat her father’s memory, or will the ghost of the malicious man continue to haunt her forever?
Director Sánchez first came to prominence with the avant-garde The Blair Witch Project, and Lovely Molly begins with a homage to the found-footage genre that he had himself popularised with the 1999 horror, as we are presented with an opening scene featuring a devastated Molly talking to a hand-held camera. Sánchez continues to play around with found footage elements throughout the film, yet mixing it together with ordinary filming, merely seeks in devaluing the found footage angle as it takes away any realism - which is really the only point in using hand held material.
Lovely Molly, unlike the simplistic Blair Witch Project, is overly complicated and too confusing. There is so much to take in, with a variety of themes explored such as drug addiction, psychosis, broken relationships and domestic child abuse. It does seem somewhat obvious to continue to compare this picture to Blair Witch Project, but it's inevitable when a director makes a very good film that they will forever be attempting to emulate. Yet in Sánchez's defence, Blair Witch Project had barely any budget or pressure for that matter, whereas this had much more in both respects.
Where Lovely Molly does excel is within its intelligence as Sánchez keeps the audience guessing throughout. Is Molly really seeing her dead father, or has she just gone mad? It's a question the supporting cast continue to ask and one we can't even answer ourselves. When Molly is alone we enter her mind which makes it unclear whether we are witnessing reality or merely seeing things through her distorted, damaged mental state. This is why the character of Tim is important to the narrative as he represents us, as he attempts to uncover Molly's affairs, finding normality in a surreal set of circumstances.
Typical of Sánchez's work, Lovely Molly isn't a gory film, but instead it's what is implied which scares us, a much more potent form of horror as what we don't see is always far more terrifying than what we do. Yet this psychological horror isn't frightening as such, but it is certainly a film that makes you think, and a chilling experience for the viewer, working more as a study of the human mind and the repercussions of child abuse and how a damaged soul seeks both clarity and security.
It can be so easy to judge and criticise horror movies based solely on the scale of how scared it can make you feel, yet this picture, despite failing to frighten, is really creative and thought-provoking and for this Sánchez should be commended. It's original, which certainly can't be said for the majority of most contemporary horror movies. Having said that, however, Lovely Molly could be a bit scarier, as in points it seems to shy away from horror, almost on the brink of being really spine-tingling but refusing to push through that barrier, which does leave you feeling unfulfilled in parts.
A major positive lies within the wonderful performance of Lodge who turns in a chilling performance as the mentally scarred Molly. She manages to present both fear and fearlessness in equal measure, whilst also aptly depicting insanity too, as we slowly watch the character decline in front of our very eyes.
Lovely Molly is an intriguing picture that certainly makes you think and one that deserves a second viewing, which may actually help in piecing the story together as it does leave a host of unanswered questions. In fact, a second attempt may just be a necessity as I remain torn between whether Sánchez has actually been very intelligent in making a film that stays in our minds and questions our conscience, or whether he is actually making us read things into it that don't even exist. Our in-depth analytical coverage of the film is perhaps just what he wants from us. Either way, Sánchez has succeeded in making me carefully deliberate regardless, so he's won this round.