Friday, September 7, 2012

Lovely Molly (2011)

The Blair Witch Project, Altered, and now Lovely Molly--Eduardo Sanchez's movies really appeal to me.  Blair Witch scared my fifteen-year-old self nearly out of the rickety cinema in which I chanced to watch it with a couple buddies; and Altered was a ton of fun on a night when my twenty-six-year-old self chanced to watch a seemingly randomly picked offering from the slim catalogue that is Netflix Instant.  It wasn't until yesterday--the day of my planned viewing of Molly--that I even realized this was written, directed, and edited by Sanchez.  In fact, it wasn't until I looked up his filmography that I realized he also did Altered.  So, for better or worse, my expectations were as piqued as my interest.  Luckily, it delivered!

The first thing of note is atmosphere.  This movie has remarkable atmosphere, from lighting to sound engineering to POV transitions to overall compositions.  Speaking of POV transitions, this movie is a very interesting experience.  There are something like 4 different perspectives that the movie oscillates between, producing a very enjoyable and plot-thickening effect.  Thumbs way up there, Mr. Sanchez.  The use of sound has to be my close second favorite element of atmosphere.  The score is phenomenal: understated, swelling at just the right moments.  The digital squeal coming from the camcorder is not a new effect, but welcome all the same.  And that ghastly baritone that's still stuck in my head: "Molly, lovely Molly."

I contemplated leaving out any commentary regarding the visual aspects of the movie since I believe it will be unanimously apparent to all who watch, but I can't resist.  This is such a well-shot, well-edited movie.  Composition after composition, I kept thinking how perfect this house was for such a movie.  That claustrophobic stairwell thoroughly creeped me out every time it was in the frame.  That austere bedroom with two old single beds, covered with old blankets I know I, too, slept under as a kid.  The wicker wreaths on the doors.  The iron  lock slipped into the eye-hole and held by an old piece of twill.  And those horses!  Why are horses so terrifying to me?  They don't even do anything.  (And what did the whole horse thing have to do with anything, anyway?)  Why does the whole concept of horses in The Ring get under my skin?  Anyway, I really felt as though I were actually in this secluded old Virginia farmhome (I'm from Virginia, so if the movie doesn't specify, I always imagine it being set there).

Now that generalizations about the movie are out of the way, let me talk about a couple of specifics.  The opening scene executes as soon as you hit the play button, so be ready.  I thought I had a few seconds to settle myself onto the couch and all, but, no!--I hit play on the DVD menu and Molly appears on the screen, talking to me.  Then there began a quick moment that reminded me of the opening scene in Mirrors, and I rolled my eyes, thinking, oh great this is going to be crap.  Luckily, we're spared such a cheap opener and we move onto a found-footage-style wedding scene.  Since I watch movies without reading anything about them, I thought, oh it's going to be in this style the whole time.  But, as I've mentioned, it wasn't.  Instead the movie was quite crafty with its perspectives.

Spoiler Paragraph Alert.  As the mystery unfolded, and you catch on quite quickly--at least to some aspects of what happened--I found myself thinking of Silent House.  There are a lot of similarities to Silent House, but, thankfully, when Molly's epiphany (epiphanies) hit the audience, they're not forced on us as a big GOTCHA!  The similarities have more to do with underlying plot and psychological breakdown.  Like the rest of the film, they're subtly revealed without overexplanation or this strange groping for an actual ending.  Instead, Molly has an ending that left me ambivalent in the same way that The Last Exorcism's ending left me ambivalent.  (In truth, I kept waiting for a Blair Witch ending of Molly standing in the corner of the cellar!)  The end might work for some, but for me it's a little too much given the nature of the entire preceding film--again, like The Last Exorcism.

I found more than enough to love about Lovely Molly to overlook its inevitable weak points.  Any self-respecting horror fan will appreciate this film, and any lover of mystery and suspense will enjoy their experience.  From start to finish, I remained engaged, thrilled with the pacing and reveling in the freedom from being subjected to cheap thrills.  I haven't read any other reviews, but I can imagine that some might have been put off by the movie's understated approach, or by some of the loose ends.  But I've got enough questions cycling through my head today to warrant a re-watch as soon as possible.  So, I'll throw even more points at the film for eliciting enough interest to secure subsequent viewings.  A panoply of all the things I love in horror movies and devoid of all cheap gimmicks, Lovely Molly just made my Chris's Picks page.

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