Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Eduardo Sánchez's LOVELY MOLLY scares a bit & stars an impressive Gretchen Lodge

The new film from Eduardo Sánchez, the co-director of The Blair Witch Project, begins with a bit of near-horror -- a crazed young woman video-camming herself while holding a knife to her own throat. Then we shoot back in time to her wedding and slowly work our way toward to the present once again. This sort of approach ensures that we know immediately we're in "scare territory." Hardly subtle, it does prime us for things to come. Come they do, helped along in no small measure by the superlative sound effects (Matt Davies) and the music (by Tortoise), which, in its way, seems just another, odder sound effect.

Ever since Blair Witch, TrustMovies has had it in for movies that are mostly self-video-cammed. It just seems to him too cheap and easy (and boring) a manner in which to film. It has its occasional uses, however, and I am happy to report that Mr. Sánchez (shown at right) only descends to this technique now and again during the film. Yes, his movie involves mostly hand-held camerawork, but that annoying little red "rec" light isn't always on. (This clever-once-but-once-only technique worked best in [REC], less so in its offshoots.)

Post-wedding, our twosome (Gretchen Lodge, above, left and Johnny Lewis, right) moves into the house formerly occupied by her family. Mistake: as we (and they) soon learn. Our heroine, Molly, has no excuse for not knowing this from the beginning, and unless this character has it in for herself (ah,but she does, she does!), there's little logic in choosing this house as the spot to set up housekeeping. But they do, and from night number one, complete with the requisite things that go bump, they -- and we -- get a little scared.

So much of these scares are provided by sounds, so fraught are the faces of our couple as they listen and try to ascertain, and so creepy is the house itself that the filmmaker sets up a highly economical premise that initially works better than any of the other recent scarefare -- Silent House, The Inkeepers or Insidious. For awhile, at least.

The movie also manages to reflect the state of our current economy (he's a long-distance truck driver, she works cleaning/maintenance in a large office building in the nearest town); nobody's doing well financially. The backstory of Molly and her family comes out slowly and relatively believably in dribs and drabs at the same time as something/someone takes hold of our heroine. The gears mesh rather well -- if rather obviously -- and then....

Yuuuch. Just more of the usual. Possession may be nine-tenths of the law, but I would say it constitutes an even larger percentage of the horror movies we see. Around the midway point it becomes clear that the filmmaker and his movie are vamping -- i.e. killing time with repetition and more-of-the-same antics until he can hit the 90-odd minute mark and bring the movie home.

Along the way, we do get a few good scenes -- one of these during a Sunday Church service that is strangely and un-showily, as scary as anything else in the film. When Pastor Bobby (a creepy Field Blauvelt) makes a house call, and Molly pulls a Sharon Stone, things move quickly into overdrive. Ms Lodge does a yeoman job here, moving from sweetie-pie newlywed (above) to a one-woman Psycho Bitch Party (below). She even gets a humdinger of a full-frontal nude scene, which she handles like a pro.

Lodge is well supported by Mr. Lewis and by Alexandra Holden (below) as her troubled, implicated sister. Nice touches occur along the way -- how this possession initially takes hold -- and the violence is well-chosen and handled as much for suspense and shock as for blood and gore (though there's plenty of that, too). Overall, though, as good as some of its pieces may be, Lovely Molly finally offers maybe 60 minutes of content in a long, 99 minutes of movie.

The film opens this Friday, in limited release, in various parts of the country. Visit the film's web site or click here to learn where -- and how to get tickets.

All photos are from the film itself, except that of Mr. Sánchez,
which is by Kim Hairston, courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

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