Lovely Molly (2012)
I promised last time that my next review would be one that did "slow-burn" horror right, and I'm delivering. I won't lie, though: this is going to be a divisive film among those who watch it. Not only is it fairly slow to get going, but it does not give a very clear-cut explanation as to what is going on, though once you make sense of the symbolism it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out. To really appreciate Lovely Molly, you have to go into it expecting not only a haunted house/possession story, but also a film about drug addiction and the process of recovering from it.
Director and co-writer Eduardo Sanchez is best known as one half of the team (the other half being Daniel Myrick) behind the pioneering found-footage horror film The Blair Witch Project, and Lovely Molly bears many of his fingerprints. Long stretches of the film are presented in the form of footage recorded off a personal camcorder, held by... someone as he/she stalks a suburban family. I felt that these sections were the weakest parts of the film; while they did serve to build dread, they often distracted from the drama with Tim and Molly that drove much of the film, and they felt like they were there simply to remind viewers of Blair Witch.
Sanchez's other trademark from that film, however, works much better here, and that is his keeping the horror, the answers, in the dark until the very last possible moment, making the viewer wonder what is going on to the very end -- and even then, some parts of the film are open for interpretation. The fact that the malicious force haunting Molly was represented as a horse -- slang for heroin, the drug Molly was recovering from -- opens up all sorts of questions as to just what the real threat was. I was constantly kept guessing whether the spirits that Molly was encountering were real, or simply the product of her drug withdrawals and collapsing sanity. His writing does an excellent job keeping the viewer invested in the story and characters, with just enough scares and unsettling scenes to keep up an atmosphere of dread without getting in our faces with loud noises and "boo!" moments.
Speaking of Molly, lead actress Gretchen Lodge is amazing here. She is fearless as Molly, running the emotional gamut from happy newlywed to sexy to flat-out crazy. Without her powerful performance at the center of the film, I wouldn't have been half as invested in the goings on or in her fight to overcome her demons both psychological and supernatural. Sanchez recognizes this, putting Lodge front and center throughout most of the movie, and she held me captivated through all 100 minutes.
Score: 4 out of 5
I debated whether to give this a 4 or a 5, but decided that, if I had to think, really think, whether or not I should give a film a near-perfect score, then I should probably go with a 4. Still, though, problems with the shoehorned found-footage scenes aside, this is an excellent and scary film. Go see this if you're looking for a nice "old-fashioned" ghost story.