Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lovely Molly (2012): The Slow Burn Returns

From half the team that brought us The Blair Witch Project comes a film that is easily the most unsettling film I've seen so far this year.  Directed by Eduardo Sanchez, Lovely Molly is somewhat of an enigma, as it was rather like several sub-genres of horror working together to present a tense though somewhat melodramatic movie that will leave an impression on the viewer that is hard to shake.  It's got elements of the supernatural which weave into demonic overtones, yet it's a ghostly thriller morphing into drama here and there as well.  And it's downright scary.

Let me get this out of the way first.  Sometimes I tire of horror fans being so hard on films.  Everyone wants things wrapped up in a big bow, tying up all the loose ends and rejoicing in the Disney ending that has everyone slapping each other on the back and guffawing in how wonderfully things worked out.  Ugh.  I like diversity.  I like ambiguous endings. I like characters that endure difficult situations and sometimes don't come out smelling like a rose.
Which is no doubt why I thoroughly enjoyed Lovely Molly.

When Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and Tim (Johnny Lewis, whom I recognized from Sons of Anarchy) move into her childhood home out in the country (I've yet to understand why on earth  people move into their family's old country house/estate when there are horrific memories of something awful that happened either at the house or to the people that live there...or both.  But time and time again, it happens.) it's quickly made known that Molly has had some issues.  With her dad.  With drugs. And evidently with her mind. But she's freshly married and starting a new life!  Ahem...then why would she move back to the likely source of her past undoing?  Maybe it was free? Yeah, we'll go with that.  People that are not rolling in dough oft make impulsive decisions that backfire miserably. We've all been there, right?

Almost immediately, things start to happen to rattle Molly.  Because Tim is a truck driver and spends days at a time away from home, he has an alarm system installed which promptly goes off in the middle of the night.
After calling the police to come investigate, they find nothing amiss except the back door hanging open.  While nothing comes of that incident, once Tim leaves Molly begins to experience things in the house. Voices that seem to be calling her name, odd sounds (was that a horse snorting?), and shadows that draw her to explore places like the basement and the old stables.  Her father's den seems to be an especially sore spot for Molly, yet she pays particular attention to it, staring at the many photos of horses and her father around the room.  Enticed to open a closet door in her old bedroom after hearing a child's voice crying, the film cuts as she starts to go inside - and this is when all bets are off. 

Molly's sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden) fears that her sister might be back on drugs when Molly swears to her that their father is still alive. Previous to this, she has in fact enabled Molly's nasty habit by giving her a joint or two on her birthday when Tim was away.  Hannah not only knows for a fact that their father is not still alive, (as we soon find out that she is the one who killed him), but has serious reservations about Molly being back in this house where she can be reminded of "whatever" happened between Molly and their dad. Perhaps he was sexually assaulting Molly?  That information is inferred but never truly spoken of outright.  Again, why she would move into this house (and why Tim would even want to, knowing how much pain it caused his wife) is beyond me.  But it makes for good scares.

Molly's fears escalate as she fears someone - her father? - is following her every move.  She starts to slack off at work and act extremely peculiar.  She is disheveled and cocky, pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable.  There is a scene that comes off in a very "The Entity"-kind of way, where an unseen assailant is violently raping Molly at the end of a hallway.  And for some reason, Molly likes to hang out naked a lot.  A scene where Tim comes home from work and finds her sitting naked on a bed staring at the wall is disconcerting. 

The film does have a bit of serious violence and a touch or two of gore.  There are some scenes with Molly interacting with the local minister and one with a deer in the basement (yep, you read that right) that beg an explanation - but don't be thinking that you're actually going to get one.  Molly also takes to following a woman and a young child around for some reason, filming them at random. There is a lot to be confused about here, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  As I stated, I like a little ambiguity with my scares.  I won't say Lovely Molly was frightening, in the way that oh say....The Shining was frightening.  Lovely Molly has more of an agitating haze over it.  

There is also some hand-held camera work here.  But don't let that dissuade you.  It's not like Paranormal Activity or Sanchez's claim to fame, The Blair Witch Project.  The hand-held scenes are for dramatic effect only.  The very first scene is a very distraught Molly, speaking into a camera about how something wasn't her fault. It sets the tone for the rest of the film, making the viewer aware that it's not your average horror movie.

I, for one, thought Gretchen Lodge as Molly was a total revelation.  She absolutely owns the part, baring her soul (and everything else!) and digging down deep to give one of the best performances in a horror film in quite a few years, if I'm being honest.  She was so utterly believable, so honest and authentic that I simply can't wait to see what she does next.  She transforms the film from average to distinctively interesting.

There are some disturbing visuals in this movie, and the last ten minutes are no doubt the creepiest in the whole film.  They will certainly have you wondering if Molly is simply depressed and faltering in her surroundings, back to being a raving addict, possessed by a demonic entity, or simply psychotic - in the worst possible way. 

And like I mentioned previously, if you like things to end with all your ducks in a row, you'll be pretty pissed off.  But if you're like me and things can go haywire and end abruptly, you'll be smiling while you scratch your head -  because the best part of this film is trying to decide what might have been going on - and what happened next.  The truth in layman's terms:  Do yourself a favor and see this creepy film, stat.


Marie said...

At first I was really excited to watch this film, then hesitant because I thought it might suck, and now you have me wanting to see it again! Although, admittedly, when I know there are going to be rape scenes in a movie, it kind of makes me not want to see it. But I'll try and be brave!

Christine Hadden said...

Don't worry about the rape scene, it's not what you think. It's more implied. You don't really see anything.
And yes, please do watch this! I'm anxious to hear if you like it! I think you will! x

Alice said...

I watched this a couple of weeks ago, and really enjoyed it. I agree - I like that it was open-ended. Quite often the films that really stay with me are the ones that are ambiguous. The closing image was incredibly creepy, and the sound effects unnerved me a lot - the soft singing and the horse hooves. Ugh! Great review :)

Christine Hadden said...

I agree, most of the films that really make an impression on me are films that make me really think. And this was definitely one of those!
And yes, that closing image...yikes.

Thanks for reading, Alice!

Anonymous said...

I, too, love films where things go all sideways and weirdness ensues, so I quite enjoyed this movie as well. BTW, I realized after a second viewing that the reason Molly was stalking that woman and her kid seemed to me to be because that was the woman Molly's husband was cheating on her with.

Thanks for a great blog as always!

Christine Hadden said...

Anon: Agreed, and I think this film was one of the more atmospheric films of last year.
And many thanks for the compliment - and for reading :)