Eduardo Sanchez was one half of the directorial team that unleashed the now prevalent found footage motif onto horror movies in 1999 with The Blair Witch Project. His latest offering to the genre, Lovely Molly (2011) – which hit cinemas earlier this year and is released this week on DVD – is a disconcerting movie which plays its cards close to its chest throughout and is unnerving without ever managing to truly scare. The eponymous Molly (Gretchen Lodge) is a young woman who we’re introduced to through some video footage – welcome back Mr. Sanchez – of her wedding to truck driver Tim (Johnny Lewis).
Upon their union, they move into the long abandoned family home where Molly and her sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden) grew up; a house that had stood abandoned since their father’s mysterious death within its walls. After a few months, strange occurrences begin to plague whilst Tim is away with work. Molly seems desperate not to tell anyone about the strange noises and voices that she hears when in the house on her own and it is soon revealed that a history of psychiatric problems and drug abuse may be the reason.
Terrified of being thought insane again, Molly begins to become obsessed with recording the goings on in the house and as her mental state deteriorates, violence ensues whilst revelations of buried secrets abound. Where Lovely Molly does manage to feel refreshing is the way in which it plays with the idea of its protagonist being high or insane rather than a malevolent force in the house. There are signposts towards haunting, and demonic possession, but the films remains disturbing by anchoring itself in Molly mental issues. Lodge is frighteningly convincing as the young woman losing her mind, one minute weeping in the corner, the next minute a sultry seductress, the next a crazed maniac.
The ambiguity in the film is also where it unravels though as the excessive elements thrown into her back-story to offer possibilities for her condition (mental problems, drug abuse, grief, suggested child abuse) serve to muddy the water rather than add to the menace. The video camera sections also seem to add nothing though there is a suggestion that some of the footage is not shot by Molly herself but someone else.
There is one memorably gut wrenching moment of violence and the third act sees a shift towards more conventional gore but its the disarming first half that gives the film its creepiest moments. Regrettably though, despite a soundtrack clearly designed to illicit jumps, Lovely Molly never quite manages to convert the unease into being truly scary.