Starring Gretchen Lodge, Alexandra Holden, Johnny Lewis, Ken Arnold
Directed by Eduardo Sanchez
Edinburgh International Film Festival
Newly weds trucker Tim and cleaner Molly move into her late parents’ old farmhouse. While her husband is away working, ex-junkie Molly (Lodge) is haunted by her dead abusive father… or is she?
As Lovely Molly opens you might be forgiven in fearing the worst kind of ‘found footage’ effort, as Gretchen Lodge’s Molly directly addresses a handheld videocamera in a state of terror. We’ve been here before with Eduardo Sanchez, co-director of The Blair Witch Project (1999), after all… However, after this faltering opening (including a tiresome wedding video compilation), things do pick up, but the film rarely rises above the standard lone-woman-persecuted-by-the-supernatural schtick that has long outlived its usefulness, despite a few interesting touches.
It’s not a bad film, and while the video material (why do people in films insist on videoing themselves at every opportunity?) is certainly part of it, Lovely Molly moves beyond this to present a fairly straight-forward haunted house movie, with occasional curve balls to make sure viewers are paying attention. Weird video inserts of a seemingly happy family might be odd flashbacks or something else, until the appearance of a known character resolves their status. Something found under the floorboards, and a late image that sees Molly willingly surrender herself to a ‘horned something’ in the woods suggest occult undercurrents that are (wisely) not fully explained.
Performances throughout are excellent, especially a naked one (often physical, as well as emotional) from Gretchen Lodge as the haunted and/or possessed Molly. The film depends upon her performance to maintain the ambiguity about what’s actually happening and whether it’s real, imaginary or something else entirely. In its blue collar characters and some other specifics, Lovely Molly echoes recent release The Pact, but has a much less conventional approach even if it also apes that film’s unneccessary sequel hook.
Where Lovely Molly really scores, though, is not in the visuals but in the sound design, which is edgy and haunting without relying on the standard ‘jump out of your skin’ shock noises. It adds another vital dimension to an interesting take on what nonetheless remains a well-worn storyline.
Verdict: While Molly herself is not very lovely at all, the film is a welcome contribution to the genre even if it offers little that is truly innovative. 6/10
Brian J. Robb
Lovely Molly screens at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 21 June at 20:50 and 24 June at 15:05 and opens nationwide on 29 June.