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Lovely Molly Review (TIFF 2011) – From the director of The Blair Witch Project

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Lovely Molly is the continuation of director Eduardo Sánchez’s experiment with first person horror, the initial part of the experiment being The Blair Witch Project. However, the majority of the film is not shot from the first person point of view, unlike Blair Witch. The technique is used sparingly and primarily for time spent alone by the main character in and around a creepy country home. The experiment is hit and miss, as Lovely Molly has enough genuinely scary moments to make it worth a view for horror fans, although the first person moments tend to detract rather than add to the film. I felt lost in the narrative during many of these moments, perhaps it is my fault for not engaging the film enough. The importance of these scenes became apparent near the end of the film, but served only to confuse before that.

The film tells the story of Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and her new husband Tim (Johnny Lewis), as they move into Molly’s childhood home to start a life together. It isn’t long before unsettling events, possibly supernatural in origin, begin to happen in the home. Molly finds it harder and harder to spend time alone in the home at night.  Truck driver Tim is constantly on the road for days at a time, and Molly’s sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden) tries to help, but can’t hold her hand every step of the way. Add to this, disturbing forgotten memories that begin to surface in Molly’s mind and a struggle with a serious drug abuse problem from the past, and it is apparent that Molly faces a battle for her sanity that may be impossible to win.

SPOILERS

I don’t know why Sánchez is so enamoured with the first person POV. These scenes were interesting at times during the film, but I thought he did a much better job with the traditional views comprising the rest of the film. Sánchez did a wonderful job building the tension of the suspenseful scenes, waiting just enough time to be exciting, but not so long that the tension was unbearable. Also, ghastly sound effects were used masterfully to indicate a potentially malevolent presence in the house. A deep resonating voice calling to Molly was accompanied by the buzzing of flies made me wish I was elsewhere at that particular time.

Another strength of Lovely Molly is the treatment of the real and the imaginary. Out of all the films that I have seen at this year’s festival that have tried to blur the line between fantasy and reality (Intruders and The Moth Diaries), Lovely Molly does the best job of it. I was flip flopping back and forth the entire film as to whether I expected the horror to be a result of mental illness or an actual supernatural haunting. Unfortunately, this also lead to one of my biggest gripes about the film. The end of the film feels rather ambiguous, despite some clear evidence regarding the nature of the horror. This is a legitimate way to end a film, but some of the storyline decisions that lead up to the finale felt kind of clumsy. It feels like many scenes in Lovely Molly were included because they would look cool or be scary as hell, rather than fit in nicely with the ambiguity of the story. It feels like 10-15 minutes of narrative were cut from the film that would have helped to explain some aspects of the storyline and set the scene for a successful ambiguous ending. Why the discovery of the sigil beneath the floorboards? Why the horse head imagery? During the Q & A session Sánchez said that the goal of the ending was ambiguity, although I think this choice of path could have been the result of a somewhat weak script.

Finally, the performances turned in by the cast were quite good, with Gretchen Lodge as Molly taking centre stage. Sánchez called Lodge his discovery and I would agree with him. Lodge turns in a masterful performance, transforming from a happy newlywed into a deeply disturbed individual. Lodge should consider some H.P. Lovecraft adaptations if they ever make it onto the big-screen. She also impressed with her bravery standing on stage during the Q & A. Brave, considering her character had a strong dislike for clothing for a large portion of the film.

Lovely Molly is a genuinely scary horror film, although it feels a little more like an experiment than an actual story, and the ending feels like a bit of a cop-out. I’m sure there are some people out there that thought the ending was brilliant, and maybe it is, I’m just relaying my feelings after one viewing of the film. Despite it’s flaws, I would recommend Lovely Molly for the scary moments delivered by Sánchez and for Lodge’s performance. It’s not very often that horror films have acting of this quality.

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