Eye For Film >> Movies >> Lovely Molly (2011) Film Review
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
The posters will say "from someone involved in The Blair Witch Project" or words to that effect. The trailer will include the found footage element, the slow passage of time in the date-stamp, that red ball of 'Rec' in the corner. The film will try to have its cake and eat it.
It does not succeed. Infuriatingly, in fact, it will build forward from a heavy-handed introduction to a delirously unsettling pitch only to lose its nerve, to provide answers - the subsequent attempt to return to mystery is clumsy, the same notes don't strike the same chords when originality is subsumed to reprise.
Gretchen Lodge is Molly, lovely Molly, newly married and in her otherwise empty childhood home. Empty save for ghosts, of course, but they are at once more or less real as the film unfolds. There is a brave, genuinely praise-worthy sequence where director (and Blair Witch alumnus) Eduardo Sanchez keeps things happening in scene after scene, leaving cue after cue for jump-scares, for startling revelations, and despite the repeated escalations towards what seems an inevitable moment of shock, resists. Not once, or twice, but again and again, until an audience conditioned to the rhythm and tricks of horror starts to feel a deeper, almost existential unease. The tension thus induced is a solid thing, heavy among the audience, genre convention made fresh, tantalising.
When the moment comes, it is deflating. Indeed, when the moments come they are deflating. In this blue-collar woodland, a too-big house and with hints of a difficult past, no health insurance and the grind of minimum-wage drudgery, all manner of simple horrors await - no future, no hope. No patience, either, the dread built up with the slow rumble between pseudo-psychiatry and the suspiciously supernatural all tumbled out and wasted.
Too strong, perhaps, to say that - there is an excellent movement and then there are other neat touches, none on a par with the dreadful waiting, but some. The video camera comes from a desire to document, because this has happened before. Unfortunately that repetition is visible in structure, in outcome.
After working so hard to be ambiguous, the film makes up its mind. Most everything fits one theory or another - to give nothing away, poor Molly is defintely haunted by something, but when that something is revealed it is absolute. Once particle, or wave, there is no retreat.
On that wave-note, the sound - composition by Tortoise, at times harsh, often heavy - there are restrained sections, to be sure, but there is also often a high whine or a bass moan, a keening or a lowing that unsettles, but does so noticeably. The big beeps of a burglar alarm contribute to the film's early nervousness, led by things in basements, pictures on walls; there is a suspicion.
It gets darker, literally, the deep dark of doorways and low-light cameras. Later workplace CCTV starts to make things unequivocal; for all that characters don't tell us, the film tells us too much. Lodge is good, even great, carrying both halves of the film, or if not halves then the parallel pictures. As she straddles those she herself veers from one side to the other, and while the film stays distant, watching, it is good, if not great, but once it picks an angle it is lost.
There are angles aplenty, some excellent camera work, some deft re-framing that ably, shockingly, recontextualises, but it is those contexts that are difficult. While Molly's intent with the camera is to catch things happening, too much happens on screen. Whichever monster torments Molly, it is seen too often. Once the question is settled there is an attempt to gather it back, but the thread of ambiguity is lost. That said, despite that unravelling, it is far from a mess - genuinely frightening, at times viscerally discomfiting. The nested conceit of The Cabin In The Woods allowed that film to play in similar territory, but Molly is trapped in a horrifying situation that is in a horror movie - when it becomes a horror movie it is a good one, but when it is not a horror movie it is a great one, mindful that the scariest questions are unanswered - asking aloud, alone, "is anyone there?"Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2012