Lovely Molly

Molly Ain’t So Lovely in Eduardo Sanchez’s Effective Ghost Story

Main cast: Gretchen Lodge and Johnny Lewis

Director: Eduardo Sanchez

You gotta admit, Eduardo Sanchez makes some pretty affective horror movies. The writer/director of The Blair Witch Project and director of Altered, as well as contributor to V/H/S 2, Sanchez/s 2011 movie Lovely Molly is an unsettling examination of its main character’s downward spiral, without ever really revealing to us, the viewer, how much of what’s happening is real and how much is part of Molly’s unraveling imagination. While I thought the film was a bit longer than it needed to be, and a little too ambiguous, overall Lovely Molly is very affective and very very creepy.

Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and her new husband Tim (Johnny Lewis, “Sons of Anarchy”) have been living in Molly’s childhood home only three months when the goings-on start. The back door is opened in the middle of the night, with no signs of forced entry, and Tim insists he locked it, setting off the alarm and calling for the police. Later, Tim, a truck driver, has to go away for a while, leaving Molly alone in the isolated country home.

She goes to work at what looks like a Wal-Mart or a Home Depot, as part of the maintenance crew, with her sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden, “Friends”), then spends her nights alone in the house, jumping at every noise and soon seeing a mysterious figure that we never get to see.

Tim and Hannah fear Molly’s past drug addiction may be coming back to haunt her, but Molly says she’s clean, but haunted by her back-from-the-dead father who, although it’s never stated, has obviously spent a good chunk of Molly’s life abusing her, most likely sexually–which, for me, was the one huge flaw in this movie, falling back on the old standard ghost story trope that we’ve already seen in way too many movies of this sort. But, again, it’s never stated specifically, so it could be something else. But it’s probably not.

Anyway, Molly’s behavior becomes more and more erratic and her appearance becomes more and more haggard until her boss tells her she can work in the back but don’t be seen by any customers.

Tim thinks Molly’s problems stem from a return to her former heroin use–which Molly HAS, in fact, gone back to–but insists, when he finds her talking to her “father” several times, frightened and insisting “he’s right there!” that “there’s nothing there.” This, obviously, does not win him any points with his terrified wife. Of course, what she catches Tim doing on video camera later on doesn’t help, either.

Lovely Molly is the sort of ghost story you don’t see too often. It’s a ghost story where there’s very little actual ghost activity and, in fact, the ghost itself is more implied than certain. Molly’s mental state, however, is not in question. She’s falling apart. And fast.

Lodge is terrific in her part, playing Molly’s deteriorating state like a champ. I couldn’t believe this was her first movie role, or that she hasn’t been in more movies since. She was amazing her, and stole every scene she was in. She reminded me of Heath Ledger’s Joker in that, or so I read, Nolan commented how he chose Ledger because he was “fearless”. And that’s how I see Lodge now, after watching her performance here: fearless. I can’t wait to see what else she’s capable of.

Lewis was good as Tim, but he was given so little time and so little to do with it, that Lodge pretty much swallowed up any chance of Lewis–or of Holden–being all that noticed.

Whatever tension Sanchez had been able to create in The Blair Witch Project that made that movie blow up so huge, he’s only gotten a million times better. Lovely Molly is the perfect blend of lighting, camera angles and sound production to create some of the creepiest damn moments in recent viewing memory.

Not to get TOO much on the Sanchez bandwagon, though; this movie is not without its flaws. For one, it’s just too damned long. At 100 minutes, I was ready for it to wrap up about 80 minutes in. Another problem, I’m all for ambiguity and not spelling everything out for the audience, but come on, give us SOME kind of clarity by the end. Instead, this movie ends with uncertainty piled on top of even more uncertainty. The only thing we’re absolutely SURE of, without a doubt, by the end of this movie is that the house is now up for sale. We don’t know Molly’s fate, nor do we have any clue what Hannah is reaching for in the closet in that final shot. Nor do we know for certain half a dozen other details about the plot. Too many unanswered questions makes Jack a little annoyed.

Then again, none of these things take away at all from what came before. Despite an ending that left me scratching my head a little, Lovely Molly works. It’s a hell of a movie, with a hell of star giving a hell of a performance, and a director who not only knows his stuff, but also obviously has a deep love and respect for this genre.

And that’s my kinda movie.

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