Bride of Project Horror, Day 19: Lovely Molly


Tonight's movie is Lovely Molly, directed by Eduardo Sanchez, who also directed The Blair Witch Project.  Now, in the 13 years since that movie was released, it's become fashionable to write it off or talk down about it, but the fact remains that it reshaped modern horror in several important ways.  First, and most obviously, the found footage genre of horror is still going strong, as evidenced by the fact that Paranormal Activity 4 is opening in theaters today.  You could argue (and I would agree with you) that it's become an overused gimmick, but it's one that people are still willing to shell out cash for.  Sometimes it works (Cloverfield), other times... not so much (Apollo 18).  Second, it ushered in the return of low-budget horror.  It was made for under $500K and made nearly $250 million.  In fact, I just read today that every movie in the Paranormal Activity series so far has made over 20 times what they cost to produce.

If I sound overly defensive of Blair's merits, it's probably because I really, really got into that film before it even came out.  I mean, I spent hours scouring for information about it, talking about it on bulletin boards, looking forward to seeing it.  At the time, the whole first person perspective and the implied-but-not-seen scares were such novel things.

So anyway, I was looking forward to this movie.  The very first scene made me a little bit wary, though, because the movie opens with its main character (Molly) speaking directly into a camcorder and crying while talking about eerie occurrences.  Sound familiar?

I'll be fair and say that this was the only spot in the movie that I felt was being derivative.  Most of the movie is shot traditionally, with the exception of a few scenes shot through Molly's camcorder, and one scene that makes use of surveillance camera footage.

After the opening video, the movie jumps back a month earlier, to the wedding of Molly and Tim.  He's a truck driver, and she works on a cleaning crew so they don't have much money.  They decide to move into the farmhouse where Molly and her sister grew up, which has been vacant for years since the deaths of their parents.  Molly is left alone in the house when Tim has to leave for work, and the longer she's by herself, the stranger things become.  She begins to remember unpleasant things from her childhood, unusual noises and events start to happen in the house, and she is attacked by an unseen assailant more than once.  The stress begins to drive her back into old habits and patterns, and the people closest to her try to help, but may be too late to save her.

I'm up in the air about this film.

There were definitely some things about it that I appreciated.  Gretchen Lodge, who plays Molly, does a great slow slide into madness.  Seriously, there were times when I was watching this movie that I was reminded of Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion, slowly going crazy in a home she's alone in.  Repulsion is actually a good movie to watch along with this one, because both movies' main characters are the products of damaging relationships with their fathers, damages that have carried into their adult lives.  And I've got to say this about Lodge, too: she's very attractive, in kind of a tomboyish way.

I liked how the movie kept me uncertain about what was really happening (although I'm going to come back to that in a minute), and whether the events Molly saw were supernatural, a result of her drug relapse, a mental breakdown, or some combination of all three.  I was impressed with how each of the people in Molly's life (her sister, her husband, and her pastor) have a different perspective on what may be happening with her, and struggle to help her while dealing with their own insecurities (especially the pastor).

But here's what I didn't like, and unfortunately it's major enough for me to dock the movie a couple of points for it.  This movie introduces too much ambiguity without addressing enough of it.  Look, I don't need everything tied up in a neat little bow by the end of a movie.  In fact, I kind of enjoy movies that leave you with something to wonder about.  But there's just so much about this movie that's introduced as part of Gretchen's descent without any explanation about what it means or why it's important.  (Spoilers follow.)  When we first see the weapon Gretchen chooses, it's shown to be something significant to her, something that is set apart, but we never know why.  What did she see (and reach out to) in her childhood closet that started her downward path?  Why does her sister seem to see the same thing at the end of the movie?  Why does she associate her dad with horses, to the extent that she covers his face with cutout horse heads in every picture of a photo album?  Like I said, I don't mind a little mystery, but the answer to even one of these questions could have added so much depth to this movie.

I give Lovely Molly three horse heads out of five, but I give Gretchen Lodge five out of five.
Tomorrow night: Three…Extremes directed by Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike, and Chan-wook Park; available on Netflix instant streaming


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