“Lovely Molly” is a direct descendant of “The Blair Witch Project.” Aside from the fact that it incorporates the same handheld, shaky-cam, faux-doc technique as that 1999 sensation, it was written and directed by Eduardo Sanchez, one of “Blair Witch”’s co-directors/creators.
But this genre of horror film is played out – or at least this slight, rarely unnerving effort makes it seem so. Sanchez follows the horror-movie template. And while he doesn’t show us ghosts, he wants us to believe in evil spirits and a kind of demonic possession without doing much to convince us.
The title character, Molly (Gretchen Lodge), is a newlywed who moves back into her remote family home with her groom, Tim (Johnny Lewis), after their wedding. Almost immediately, something seems hinky; their burglar alarm goes off in the middle of the night and they can hear noises on the main floor as they huddle nervously at the top of the stairs. Needless to say, there’s nothing there – or at least nothing they can see.
Tim is a truck driver who is gone for long stretches on the road, leaving the skittish Molly at home alone. Molly and her sister, Hannah (Alexandra Holden), do scut work at a big-box store, cleaning windows, spills and the like. Oh, and Molly is a recovering heroin addict, fresh out of rehab at her wedding, haunted by memories of her late parents – her father in particular.
It’s not giving away too much to say that she has serious daddy issues; so does her sister. It won’t take long to guess what they are. The only real questions raised by the slowly – very slowly – unfolding plot is when (not if) she’ll go back to using narcotics and whether the events we see are real or just the product of a drug-addled imagination.
There’s no trick to tweaking an audience’s nerves in a movie like this. Just put a video camera in the main character’s hand instead of a flashlight – make that a video camera that offers a night-vision feature – and make its viewfinder the audience’s point of view. Then have that character slowly – very slowly – search her own house in the dark. Rather than showing something jumping out of the dark, instead have the character scream, drop the still-running camera and continue to scream, moan and otherwise imply fear and pain off-camera, while the audience watches what is, essentially, a still-life image of an empty room. To quote the always relevant Count Floyd, “Oooo – scary!”
Lodge is a seemingly fearless actress, given that she does most of her acting alone and, frequently, naked. And when she gets physically violent with Lewis, it will make you cringe. But cringing is very different from engaging with the movie as a whole. In that sense, “Lovely Molly” rarely goes anywhere unexpected – and hardly anywhere that’s actually frightening.