DIRECTOR Eduardo Sánchez WRITER Jamie Nash; Eduardo Sánchez STARS Gretchen Lodge; Johnny Lewis; Alexandra Holden CINEMA 29 June
Director Eduardo Sánchez has a lot to answer for. Almost 15 years ago he changed the face of modern horror with his debut, The Blair Witch Project, an effective shocker made for peanuts that grossed millions, launching a thousand mostly inferior found-footage films by hacks looking for an easy hit.
Lovely Molly is good work; if Sánchez continues in this vein he could easily find himself forgiven. It does contain moments of videotaped mayhem, generally by lead Gretchen Lodge who is wondering if her new home is genuinely haunted or she’s simply losing her marbles, but for the most part this is a well shot, atmospheric adult horror, effective and surprisingly scary. Surprising because this is well-worn territory — the haunted house has been in place virtually since cinema began — and there’s very little here you won’t have seen before, but Sánchez gets a lot of mileage out of simple set-ups: shadows, closed cupboards, basement stairs leading to a dark cellar. It’s helped by a great performance from Lodge, who makes us care about her is-it-or-isn’t-it fractured mind. With her husband away working, her loneliness leading her back into an old drug addiction and memories of an abusive father, she’s already fragile before the strange knockings start happening behind doors. The movie rests on Lodge and she sells it well.
With a low budget don’t expect grandiose effects and rivers of gore; truthfully the film works better without them, instead concentrating on atmosphere and ongoing tension to build scares. The reasons behind what’s happening aren’t always fully explained, but Lovely Molly is happy enough to respect the intelligence of the audience and let your own conclusions be drawn. It’s not perfect; the supporting cast are sketched in and the aforementioned first-person footage feels like a nod to Sánchez’s past and could easily have been dropped. But generally there’s a lot to enjoy, and you could find yourself leaving a light on after viewing.