Posted June 25, 2012 by Ben Winkley in Films

Lovely Molly

It’s been 13 years since Eduardo Sanchez’s last film, The Blair WitchProject, redefined how movies are marketed as it blazed a trail for the sort of online buzz-building that now comes as standard. Judging by his newproject, Lovely Molly, Sanchez didn’t feel it necessary to spend that time coming up with fresh ideas and thus releases an interesting but undemanding horror-house flick into an already crowded market.

Part of the problem is that quite a lot of Lovely Molly centres on a terrified woman talking into a hand-held camera. A self-referential nod to Blair Witch’s found-footage success, it’s a technique that could have been ditched after the opening scene, a home-movie capture of the wedding of the titular Molly (Gretchen Lodge).

Although much of the rest of the film is shot more traditionally, the frequent interruptions from the first-person segments become distracting and, as they turn increasingly irrelevant, infuriating.

Like Blair Witch, Lovely Molly stars an unknown actress in a naturalisticperformance – in this case Lodge, a stage hoofer who gamely pushes herself from run-down to beat-up and through paranoia to insanity and who spends much of the film in the buff, all the better to show off an impressive physical deterioration.

The other problem is Lovely Molly’s unfortunate resemblance to a slew of house-based chillers released this year, like Paranormal Activity and, particularly, The Pact.  The resemblance with the latter is almost uncanny. Both films are about a woman returning to the old family home, where she spent an unhappy, abusive childhood. In both cases her sister lives nearby and plays a pivotal role. Again in both, the house retains its secrets and spills them out onto the heroine. And in both there is a recurring image of a character sitting, naked, on the corner of a bed.  Like The Pact, the spooky presence is ambiguously presented, possibly one thing or another.

Lovely Molly’s shocks, however, are few and far between. Uncertain whether to be a psychological sketch of a crumbling woman or a more traditional eek-it’s-behind-you thriller, Lovely Molly ends up falling somewhere between the two.  But the narrative is given impetus by an atmospheric soundtrack by post-rockers Tortoise, which provides some of the movie’s more subtle undertones, and solid support from Alexandra Holden and Johnny Lewis as, respectively, Molly’s sister and husband.

So no triumphant return from the man who drew so many to the multiplex in 1999, but Lovely Molly is just what Blair Witch was, but without the hype – a run-of-the-mill American horror, with an unusual gimmick. Shame it’s the same one.

Ben Winkley