It’s been well over a decade, but director Ed Sanchez has finally created another worthwhile film with Lovely Molly. Successfully mixing several different horror subgenres together, the film starts out with a haunted house shtick before morphing into a psychological thriller and then a possession story. While many filmmakers fail at even doing one thing effectively, Sanchez managed to combine three different approaches and he made it work.
The film revolves around newlyweds Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and Tim (Johnny Lewis), who move into the bride’s rural childhood home. Things are off to a bad start from the beginning when the burglar alarm starts going off in the middle of the night and the couple discovers the back door open. The police write off the incident as a harmless prank, but with Tim gone for days at a time because of his job, Molly begins losing her mind and getting back into her old, destructive habits – even with the support of her sister (Alexandra Holden), the only family she has left.
Besides for the creepy setting of an old farm that looks both lived in and appropriately run down and Lodge’s great performance, the film’s biggest asset is that it presents a compelling argument for both sides of the “Is it real or all in her head?” question. For almost the entire film, Sanchez and co-writer Jamie Nash smartly fuel the fire with abandonment issues, drug addiction, the questionable nature of males in her life, and her house’s sordid past – a bunch of realistic reasons that would lead someone to become unhinged. By the end, the film veers off towards one viewpoint more than the other, but the finale is ambiguous enough to let viewers draw their own conclusion. With a lean script that cuts out a lot of unnecessary fluff and a heavy atmosphere of dread that is sustained for the entire runtime, Lovely Molly has a lot going for it, making it not only a great return to form for Sanchez but also one of the best horror films of the year.
Shot entirely on HD cameras, Lovely Molly’s 1080p encode is satisfying overall, with an exception or two. Detail level is high, showcasing every splinter of the house’s crumbling frame and making it appear appropriately dilapidated. It also gets the subdued and fairly drab color scheme down pat. Where it really falters is during shadowy scenes, during which a lot of banding issues are apparent. On top of that, the film lacks depth and looks a bit flat, but that’s more so because of how it was shot. The DTS-HD 5.1 track captures Tortoise’s minimalistic score, which adds a lot to the film’s excellent atmosphere. Dialogue is clear and the sound effects – of which there are many – never drown it out. Since the effects and score mostly use higher pitches, the track has very little “oomph,” but it does its job nonetheless.
Commentary – It’s kind of odd that the commentary isn’t mentioned on the back of the case. If you don’t use subtitles, there would be absolutely no reason for you to even go to the set-up menu and find it; truly bizarre. In any case, director Ed Sanchez and co-writer Jamie Nash are incredibly dull and monotone as they point out what’s going on on-screen and occasionally talk about some technical aspects. Definitely not worth sitting through.
Path To Madness (7:02), Haunted Past (7:24), Demonic Forces (7:23), and Is It Real? (6:38) – Normally, I cover featurettes individually, but my main point on all these is the same: don’t watch them. Used for marketing purposes prior to the film’s release, each segment is extremely one-sided and provides unnecessary exposition to the point where it ruins the ambiguity that makes the film so great to begin with – they also can’t decide whether they’re pretending it’s real or it’s just a movie. You don’t need to know more info about Molly’s mother’s blood disease or civil war soldiers linked to black magic to enjoy Lovely Molly. I strongly recommend skipping all of the special features and just enjoying it for the atmospheric movie that it is.