Eduardo Sanchez has found himself in a unique position throughout his career. How does one ever capitalize on creating a modern genre “classic”/pop culture phenomenon? Truthfully, you don’t. You don’t come back from peaking right out of the gate. It’s the time-old fate that has befallen several of horror’s most storied auteurs, sadly. Instead, you continue on, knowing that every movie poster featuring one of your films will always say “From The Director Of…”. It’s nothing to be ashamed, but nothing you’ll escape. John Waters once described Pink Flamingos as “The film he (Divine) would never live down and the film I would never live up to”. That sentiment follows most horror film vets to their grave. The same could have (and most likely will) been said for Sanchez in regards to The Blair Witch Project. Since Blair Witch became the beloved hit that it is, Sanchez and his cohorts have not been able to re-capture that lightning in their jar. That is, until Lovely Molly.
Lovely Molly (available now on Blu-ray and DVD via Image Entertainment) is a harrowing journey into the fractured psyche of a young woman beyond the cusp of salvation. Molly (stunning newcomer Gretchen Lodge. Seriously, she’s beautiful!) is a newly married young woman, who along with her husband (Johnny Lewis), move into the former farmhouse of her late father. Almost instantaneously, the demons from the home’s past begin prying loose from their slumber to torture young Molly. Her tumultuous past and the “things” that follow her are somehow in league with one another, but seem to be beyond her capability of stopping. With each passing day, the vicious presence drags Molly further from sanity and closer to hell’s gate. Her sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden) has protected Molly for most of their life. This time, however, is different. The “thing” has its sights locked on Molly and Hannah is unable to withstand its strength. Molly is at the mercy of these evil forces and is desperately trying to find out why. The more stones she turns over, the more the darkness the home contains is revealed. Is this real? Is this not? The chaos builds into one stomach-churning finale that is the fate of Lovely Molly.
Getting excited to write about a film is a rarity. Particularly a new release. Lovely Molly, however, has the dubious distinction of being that good. All the concepts behind possession or demonic spirits get a full makeover in Eduardo Sanchez’s latest film. There are no priests tossing holy water about and no girls tied to beds fucking themselves with crucifixes. Instead, we are treated to a ringside seat into a young woman’s emotional unraveling. With that comes a myriad of occurrences that can only be described as jarring. They aren’t your run-of-the-mill haunting parlor tricks. They’re organic. Breathing, horse hooves (in the context of the film, trust me), a child crying, visions seen only by Molly…from the other side of all of this, it’s bone chilling. As it’s slowly pieced together, we find out that Molly and Hannah were not raised in the best of scenarios. There is an apparent fear of their late father and the acts he committed in their youth. However, without unveiling potential spoilers, it isn’t clear as to whether it was actually their father! The film’s final 2 acts erupt in violence and chaos. This isn’t a story with a happy ending. In fact, it almost feels as if it’s a story with no ending at all. Just a cyclical evil that will continue to destroy anyone who dares challenge the beast…or is it just a nightmare that has manifested after a lifetime of abuse? You aren’t left with closure, you aren’t left with relief. You’re just left with sadness and THAT, my filthy friends, is the mark of an excellent horror film.
Goddammit, did Eduardo Sanchez ever knock one out of the park! I have not seen anything he’s done since The Blair Witch Project that I enjoyed. In fact, I wasn’t that big of a fan of Blair Witch outside of the theatrical experience. It has genuine terror, but I’d already seen Cannibal Holocaust. I knew the format. Lovely Molly is different. Dare I say Sanchez has now officially captured his own lightning we’d previously discussed. The movie uses some of the concepts that his previous work has displayed. It’s set to a rural Midwestern backdrop with people who work miserable jobs. These people aren’t young gods, they’re average-looking and work average-to-shitty jobs. There is some sort of demonic concept/urban legend being played out. The difference in Lovely Molly is that doors are left open for vast interpretations.
As the story progresses, we find out that Molly shot up drugs. She was hospitalized for psychiatric problems that were believed to have been a direct result of the drug use. But even in finding this detail out, you still question whether this is the reasoning for all of the horrific events taking place. And let’s talk about those events. Sanchez alternates the cinematography back & forth between the narrative and Molly’s handheld camera. She’s using it to try and capture these events on tape. When everyone thinks you’re crazy, you need something to prove otherwise. This is her method. The handheld “found footage” is obviously something Sanchez is familiar with. Let’s be honest, he owes his success to it. However, in Lovely Molly it isn’t presented as found footage. It’s another perspective of the narrative, more specifically, Molly’s perspective. Those moments are what make the film so terrifying. She is living in her reality. That reality involves the constant pursuit for her soul by this “thing” and meanwhile, those who are around her see nothing other than Molly’s complete & utter descent. The words “disturbing” and “creepy” get thrown around A LOT nowadays. In regards to Lovely Molly, they’re 100% accurate.
The movie is as effective as it is due to the performances of the core cast. Newcomer Gretchen Lodge turned out my favorite performance in a horror flick thus far in 2012. It’s one part Larry Clark character, one part Cormac McCarthy character and heavily shrouded in evil. Lodge chews the scenery around her each time she’s on camera. To be a beautiful new bride who collapses into her own madness cannot be a simple concept to convey. She’s able to do with the grace and sophistication of a seasoned veteran. The believable nature in which Molly is portrayed is the very reason this movie is so goddamn frightening. Attribute that to Gretchen Lodge’s commitment and understanding of the character (and I would also guess by the concise direction of Sanchez). In the heat of the film’s most violent moments-and trust me, their are some VERY violent moments-Lodge is the monster she needs to be. Inversely, she’s also fractured/fragile when the role demands that of her. It’s a near-flawless performance. She is every bit the star of a movie that couldn’t be easy to star in.
The same can be said for veteran character actress Alexandra Holden. She’s a face you’ve seen a zillion times. In this particular role, Holden has to maintain a level of order that is impossible for the other people in Molly’s life to understand. Again, without giving away the ghost, Hannah knows what “happened”. She also knows why it happened and as a result went to great lengths to protect her younger sister. Holden transforms herself into someone who’s lived a million lifetimes to play Hannah. Her coarseness developed with years of sacrificing herself for her sister’s safety. It’s an unusual but incredible performance from Holden.
Lovely Molly is a balanced, well-paced horror film that will please fans of various persuasions. It’s difficult to discuss the film accurately without giving away intricate details that will ruin the story for you, so in the interest of those of you who will give this one a look I’ve tried to be as descriptive as possible without pulling the cloak off the trunk. The bottom line is that Eduardo Sanchez has constructed a brutal, dense and most importantly, SCARY FUCKING MOVIE!!! Its disturbing quiet leaves you tense while the outright visceral violence has you turning your eyes away. If you’re in the market to get the shit scared out of you, Lovely Molly is a great way to do so.
* If you’re looking for more story information after watching the film, visit www.lovelymolly.com and get some extra insight. The website gives some really cool backstory to the history of all of this. Do NOT do so until you’ve watched the movie!*