Judge Gordon Sullivan used to see ghosts, back before digital television.
You will never want to turn the lights off again!
If The Blair Witch Project is groundbreaking for anything, it's not the pseudo-documentary approach. Others got their first and did it just as well. It might be the way the filmmakers worked up the early Internet buzz to play a game of "Is it real or not?" However, my money is riding on the fact that in a couple decades, The Blair Witch Project will seem groundbreaking for demonstrating the way that consumer technology could be turned against us. No, I'm not talking about killer toasters and the like. Rather, The Blair Witch Project's use of consumer-level images showed the way forward for other filmmakers to adopt consumer video technology as a storytelling device. One of the two directors responsible for The Blair Witch Project, Eduardo Sanchez, has returned to the digital camera well to produce Lovely Molly, though the results are far from groundbreaking.
Tim and Molly have just been married, and they've moved into the house of Molly's deceased parents. Though Molly is a recovering addict, Tim goes away from days at a time as a truck driver. While he's gone, Molly starts to get visions, though we're not sure if they're simple remnants of her abusive father or motivated by some psychological force.
Normally I ignore motivation in the realm of horror films. Generally, it doesn't matter why the teenagers are going into the woods or why the big guy with the mask needs to kill them. Lovely Molly, though, makes some really weird choices that defy plausibility. First, Molly is a recovering addict. That's not so bad; it's a fairly common trope in films and helps give her a background that would make her susceptible to visions/hallucinations. Second, her husband Tim is a long-distance truck driver. Again, I understand that they wanted to get him out of the house so she could be alone, but this is bordering on the ridiculous. It would have made much more sense for him to have just recently died, because it takes a pretty precarious economic situation to make most spouses leave their recovering-addict partner at home alone for days at a time. Finally, it's that economic precarity that is most difficult to swallow. The newlyweds live in a house that is, as far as we know, rent-free, inherited from deceased parents. And yet, he makes a living as a truck driver and she's forced to work as a mall custodian? Altogether it felt like too much of a stretch, so that by the time the "scary" parts came around in the second act. I didn't really feel engaged with the characters or what was happening with them.
It doesn't help that Lovely Molly doesn't bring anything new to the scare table. The same jump startles and first-person night-vision camera setups bring "atmosphere" to the tired old haunted house clichés.
It's not all bad, though. The first third is dramatically compelling. We watch the world of Molly and Tim unfold, and the film is surprisingly restrained in using little expository dialogue. There are no awkward scenes of "Remember what it was like when my abusive father was alive, Tim?" kind of moments. In fact, if the film had dropped horror all together and instead been a quiet portrait of a newlywed couple living in a ramshackle old house, it would almost certainly have been more original and compelling.
The other thing to note about Lovely Molly is that Gretchen Lodge, making her film debut, is simply stunning as Molly. She has a background in theater, and she brings all those skills to bear in portraying a woman with a haunted past. Without resorting to filmic clichés, she makes Molly a believable former junkie who we almost believe would see ghosts. It's a beautiful performance in a lackluster film, and might make the whole thing worth watching to genre fans hungry for some better-than-average acting in the genre.
Lovely Molly (Blu-ray) is aided by a solid presentation. The 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded high definition transfer is strong. Black levels are really significant to the film's overall mood, and they're deep and consistent throughout. Colors are muted, but appropriately so. Detail is generally strong, and no significant compression artefacts mar the presentation. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is immersive, though sometimes distractingly so. However, dialogue is always clear and well-balanced.
Extras start with a commentary featuring Sanchez and his co-writer Jamie Nash. The pair are chatty, offering stories about the film's production and the weirdness involved in shooting in an older house. There are also a quartet of featurettes. The first three are "excerpts" from a news program about the events of the film, while the fourth is a more traditional "making-of" documentary. Finally, the film's trailer is also presented.
If you're a fan of possession/hallucination movies, Lovely Molly is likely to strike a nerve. It's also worth watching for fans of solid performances, as Gretchen Lodge is going to be someone to keep an eye on in the future. For those not already predisposed to enjoy such elements, there are better possession flicks out there to pick up.
For Lodge's performance, Lovely Molly (Blu-ray) is not guilty.
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