Eduardo Sanchez had a significant debut into the horror film world with his groundbreaking Blair Witch Project, and continues plugging along in the genre, most recently with Lovely Molly, a film that is part psychological thriller, part possession story.
The film revolves around young Molly (Gretchen Lodge), recently married to Tim (Johnny Lewis), and living in her childhood home in rural Maryland. Both of her parents are years dead (there are hints of a difficult childhood) and Molly's sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden) is nearly the only family she has left.
Things begin to get creepy from the get go in standard haunted house fashion. The burglar alarm goes off in the night, and the young couple discovers an open back door that Tim swears he had locked the night before. After that, the eeriness begins to intensify. Tim is a truck driver, and so Molly is left home alone for long stretches in the enormous, old house. Soon enough, she starts to hear mumbled voices calling her name. The old folk song Lovely Molly is heard about the house, along with footsteps and rattling doors. It's revealed that Molly had gotten past drug addiction and serious mental health issues earlier in her life, or perhaps she hadn't gotten over them as much as everyone thought.
As the film goes on, we learn more and more about Molly's troubled past, see a few dark hints and strange symbols carved into a pit in the shed, and watch as the young woman slowly unravels. Tim and Hannah grow more and more concerned, even enlisting the help of Pastor Bobby (Field Blauvelt) to counsel her, but Molly barely seems to notice, flipping back and forth between terrified desperation and seductive malignity. As any student of horror films could tell you, things do not go well.
The film itself is well made. The mostly practical sets, particularly the old farmhouse, are appropriately creepy and lived in. The performances are also strong, with Gretchen Lodge leading the way with gusto. She is by turns sweet and fresh faced, manic and terrified, sultry and wanton, and coldly cruel, with nary a false step. But what makes Lovely Molly work, and it mostly does work, is the sustained feeling of dread that is maintained throughout. A sense of deep malevolence and power pervades the house, and Sanchez chooses well when he gives only hints as to its origins, even if that leads to a bit of frustrated curiosity. An appropriate number of jump scares are present, but inserted as if only because they are expected, or as a change of pace. The miasma of disquiet is more than enough to hold the attention of horror fans, and the gore and blood effects, though restrained, are very good.
As stated, Lovely Molly mostly works, but not entirely so. There are a few less than stellar accents presented, and the pace drags just a bit at times, but these are mostly small quibbles. Probably the biggest criticism that can be leveled is that the story doesn't quite hold together as a whole, and there is no really emotionally satisfying ending, though with horror films that's what some prefer. Regardless, Lovely Molly hits a lot of right notes, and is certainly frightening enough. Recommended.
The video is 1.78:1 widescreen, and for the most part the Blu-ray presentation looks quite good, with deep and rich colors and sharp contrasts. Fine details like fabric patterns and textures stand out quite clearly. There is a lot of aliasing visible for a good portion of the film, but it's fairly light. There are a lot of scenes presented as home video, and of course those look of poor quality intentionally.
The audio is DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 channel, and works quite well, though there are a number of annoying moments. The dialogue is always clearly audible, and there don't appear to be any unintentional flaws or problems. It's the intentional elements of sound design that cause the annoyance. During the home video portions, a high pitched buzzing can be heard, apparently an audio cue to indicate to the viewer the difference, but it is irksome, as is the keening whine that accompanies moments of high stress. While intentional choices, they are bothersome. English subtitles are included, but no alternate language track.
A few extras are included. They are:
Path to Madness, Haunted Past and Demonic Forces
These three featurettes, each around seven minutes in length, are presented like news magazine segments discussing the events of Lovely Molly as if real, each putting forward a different theory for what might have caused them. A lot of the backstory that was only hinted at in the film, is stated explicitly here. While this is at times interesting, somehow it feels like cheating.
Is It Real
This featurette is very similar in style to the previous three, but it deals with the actual filming of the movie at the farmstead in Maryland. Apparently, enough strange incidents and eerie feelings plagued the crew that the producers brought in a paranormal investigation team and a psychic. Some history of the site is included.
At just over two minutes, this is a pretty good trailer for Lovely Molly
Trailers are also included for The Double, Beneath the Darkness and Monster Brawl.
Commentary with Director / Co-Writer Eduardo Sanchez and Co-Writer Jamie Nash
This is the most significant of the extras, and is fairly interesting. Sanchez and Nash have worked together for a few years, and have a nice camaraderie. They discuss casting, shooting various scenes, and the development of the horse theme that twines throughout the picture. They also talk about having to make adjustments due to circumstances on the ground, and some of the creepy experiences in the house.
Lovely Molly isn't the best possession / haunted house / thriller film to have ever been made, but it is a very fine effort, and works quite well. It's sufficiently creepy and sexy to satisfy most fans of the genre, and contains some very good performances. If not everything makes sense, and an acting decision here or there isn't as good as it could have been, these are easily forgiven sins, especially if one doesn't study the plot too closely. The ever present spookiness makes up for a lot.