This week in movies you missed: Eduardo Sánchez, codirector of The Blair Witch Project, proves he can make a movie where actual scary stuff happens on screen.
What You Missed
Blue-collar newlyweds Molly and Tim (Gretchen Lodge and Johnny Lewis) move into the creepy 18th-century house where Molly grew up. Weird stuff starts happening, especially when Tim is away overnight, and Molly tries to document it with her camcorder.
We soon learn that Molly is not the most level-headed of paranormal investigators. Heroin and hospitalization are in her past. She’s fixated on her dad, who died in the house — hears him calling her in her sleep, and then insists she sees him. While the audience struggles to figure out how much of what Molly believes is happening actually is, she spirals out of control.
Why You Missed It
Five theaters. None here. And yet the snoozy-sounding PG-13 horror flick The Possession (which, by the way, was the original title of Lovely Molly) somehow rockets to No. 1 at the box office?
Should You Keep Missing It?
On the scare-o-meter, I give Lovely Molly a 6. It’s a solid try, but Sánchez doesn’t have the rhythms down, the way Ti West (The House of the Devil) does. His star, Lodge, rises to most of the film’s challenges, which include whip-lash mood changes and walking around naked smeared with icky things. But she is no Sissy Spacek when it comes to expressing abject terror.
On the gore-o-meter, the movie scores a 7 (higher than you’d expect from the slow start). And on the creep-o-meter, it gets an 8, with extra points for a surprisingly disturbing last shot.
However, that creep score falls if you make the mistake of watching the featurettes included on the DVD. What makes Lovely Molly so creepy is its ambiguity: We don’t know if Molly is haunted, possessed or just off her rocker. Roughly a third of the movie consists of found footage from Molly’s camera, which doesn’t give us definite indications one way or the other, but does demonstrate her mental deterioration in graphic and shocking ways.
Because the rest of the film is shot from a third-person perspective, Sánchez can’t pull off the usual “this really happened” found-footage gimmick. Yet that is what he seems to be attempting in the featurettes, which are similar to the mini-films that provided backstory for Blair Witch. In these mockumentaries, we’re given about 100 possible explanations for everything nasty that happens in Molly’s house: It was built on sacred Indian territory, the first inhabitant was an occultist, a dude was hanged there during the Civil War, people consider it cursed, etc., etc. Not only is all this backstory hokey and dopey, but it serves to take the focus off Molly’s family relationships, which give the film its authentically unsettling moments.
So, if you want to retain the illusion that the filmmakers knew what they were doing, avoid the special features. And don’t think too hard about the motivations of Molly’s sister (Alexandra Holden), who makes a decision late in the film that is really stupid, even by horror-film standards.
Verdict: Horror fans who were irked that Paranormal Activity ended “just when it was finally getting interesting” should be more satisfied with Lovely Molly. It’s not a classic, but considering how many far worse scare flicks get wide releases, this one deserved a chance.
More New DVD Releases
Bonsai (based on the novel by Chilean author Alejandro Zambra)
Cleanskin (Sean Bean as an antiterrorist agent)
Elles (Juliette Binoche plays a journalist who gets rather too personally involved in her story about prostitutes.)
For Greater Glory (historical drama with a Christian slant)
Girl in Progress (Teenager. Rebelling. Eva Mendes is her mom.)
Goats (David Duchovny plans a “goat-trekking sage” who mentors a teen.)
The Loved Ones (cautionary tale about a young fellow who turns down a psychopath’s invite to prom)
October Baby (Girl who was nearly aborted seeks out her real mom to ask why.)
Rosewood Lane (Rose McGowan in horror flick featuring an evil paperboy.)
Snow White and the Huntsman (Charlize and Kristen compete for Fairest of Them All.)
What to Expect When You’re Expecting (Stars pretend to be pregnant.)
Where Do We Go Now? (Lebanese ladies try to distract their men from starting a war.)
Each week in "Movies You Missed," I review a brand-new DVD release picked for me by Seth Jarvis, buyer for Burlington's Waterfront Video, where you can obtain these fine films. (In central Vermont, try Downstairs Video.)