Lovely Molly is written, directed and edited by Eduardo Sanchez. Sanchez is most famous for The Blair Witch Project, but is also responsible for the under-seen, yet cool, Altered. His filmography shows he clearly loves his horror, but is frustratingly not as big as one would have thought after debuting with a smash as large as Blair Witch. Sometimes, Lovely Molly can feel almost like a showreel in it’s attempt to do just about everything and that Sanchez maybe has a point to prove (and perhaps even a chip on his shoulder); but when it works, and it works a lot, you don’t mind the man trying to prove himself. He needn’t worry though, Lovely Molly is bloody scary.
Molly and Tim are newlyweds who, in an attempt to save money, move into Molly’s old family home. It’s a house that’s as isolated as it is full to the brim with bad, repressed memories. Peripheral characters have a nasty habit of constantly vocalising their disbelief that Molly would go back there, you know, after what happened and the couple are the victims of some kind of a home invasion on night one. This is not going to end well is it?
Molly’s husband, Tim (Johnny Lewis), is a long distance lorry driver, so she’s mostly left all alone. Molly’s sister, Hannah (Alexandra Holden) is a drug user and a bad influence. Molly herself (Gretchen Lodge) is a recovered drug addict who was using to try and blot out her father’s abuse of her. The poor girl doesn’t stand much of a chance and the table is laid for theory number one: that everything that’s happening is in Molly’s head. Her loneliness, past and rekindled drug use have conspired to drive her into a spiral of self-destruction and madness.
Theory number two is the paranormal one. The one that we are teased with from the first time Moll is left in the house by herself and ventures into a secret basement in the garage that features occultist décor somehow related to horses. This is never explained. What exactly Molly’s dad got up to is never explained either – he may have been possessed, he may have just been a nasty piece of work. What is clear is that he does look properly head mental in the family photo album and he, or some horse demon he conjured up, wants Molly and is willing to play Paranormal Activity with her until she buckles and breaks.
The mysteries and the battle between psycho-drama and bump-in-the-night-horror are two of Lovely Molly’s best features. The biggest though is Molly herself. Newcomer Gretchen Lodge gives a brave, all encompassing performance, that features her playing not just a victim but a drug addict, a psychopath and a seductress. She carries the whole film and its grim sense of inevitability with a confidence that means you don’t pick a single hole in her while the film’s playing and realise you have nothing but praise for her when you talk about it afterwards.
As well as directing Miss Lodge, Sanchez also gets what he wants out of us, the audience. He sets everything up smoothly and then is happy to tease and crank the suspense without feeling like every scary sequence has to end in a scare. In fact, this build us up and leave us hanging technique is so effective that you are left practically begging for a jump, just to reset the tension. One pay-off in particular doesn’t just reset the tension, but leaves you incredulously staring at the screen repeating an inner mantra of “whatthefuckwhatthefuckwhatthefuck”. That was, like, my best bit.
It’s not all peaches and gravy though. I don’t know if he felt the need to prove that he’s the daddy of found-footage horror or something, but the infrequent uses of camcorder POV here feel tagged on and unneeded. It’s kind of an all or nothing trope and just doing two or three scenes in this style feels like a nod, not a technique. Some of the sound design is also a little uncalled for as well, the constant uses of a low rumbling sound or of high frequency noise again feel like checking boxes just to interest the Paranormal Activity fans, which is silly because the rest of the film is so good because it’s not doing something someone else’s franchise is already running into the ground.
Lovely Molly is a sometimes sad, disconcerting, and chilling brain worm that’ll you’ll be mulling over after the lights have been switched back on.
UK Release Date: 29th June