Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #321
Number of Views: One
Release Date: May 18, 2012
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 100 minutes
Director: Eduardo Sánchez
Producers: Robin Cowie, Jane Fleming, Gregg Hale, Mark Ordesky
Screenplay: Eduardo Sánchez, Jamie Nash
Special Effects: Wesley Wofford
Cinematography: John W. Rutland
Editing: Eduardo Sánchez, Andrew Vona
Studios: Amber Entertainment, Haxan Films
Distributors: Image Entertainment, Metrodome Distribution
Stars: Gretchen Lodge, Johnny Lewis, Alexandra Holden, Field Blauvelt, Camilla Zaidee Bennett, Kevin Murray, Katie Foster, Doug Roberts, Bus Howard, Josh Jones, Rosemary Knower, Craig Sechler, Brenna McDonough
Suggested Audio Candy
Jesse Spencer “Molly Smiles”
There are many critical factors to making a scary movie worth its weight in bones. Lovely Molly is one of many hopefuls looking to relinquish our wits in a genre which has become a little over-saturated in recent years. It is also a decent companion piece to Adam Robitel’s superior The Taking of Deborah Logan as it focuses on the frailties of the human mind and the progression of mental disorder. The distinct disadvantage of telling this tale effectively is that Alzheimer’s is an affliction filled with grey area and already considered the death of one’s spirit whereas the Molly of the title here, aesthetically lovely in the extreme, is in the prime of life and has her most significant travels still in front of her.
Eduardo Sánchez has paid his dues to the supernatural on various occasions although, most notably, when pooling his creative juices with Daniel Myrick for The Blair Witch Project. Whilst never likely to emulate that film’s humongous crossover success a second time, he has continued to chip away consistently on a rather delightful clutch of supernatural oddities each seeking to nestle in beneath our skin. By and large, they’ve achieved that, thus Lovely Molly is already one step ahead of the game upon commencement. The opening scene is disconcertingly shot on camcorder and the dreaded “found footage” appears to be rearing its tiresome head once more. To Sanchez’ credit he refuses to cop-out and instead integrates this technique into the over-arching narrative sparingly just as we’re preparing to neck our Nurofen.
Newlyweds Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and Tim (Johnny Lewis) have just moved into their idyllic Maryland home and appear to be contented and utterly devoted to one another. Tim’s work keeps him away for protracted periods and this affords Molly the solitude to become more acquainted with her fixer-upper. It’s an initially welcoming abode and not the kind of bleak palace usually creaking and groaning its discord with every floorboard traversed. However, something dark is at play within these fixtures and fittings and the increasingly perturbed often-sole tenant begins to merge with its dark energy and lose sight of her own sanity in the process. Her doting sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden) is on-hand to steady the ship but her best efforts prove ineffectual as Molly commences verging on the unhinged.
Lovely Molly is an odd movie. There is a reliance on creeping tension as opposed to frequent jump scares and it remains largely ambiguous where often signposts leads the way. Molly is evidently carrying a secret or two and childhood trauma is hinted at although Sanchez prefers to keep things vague and this affords our imaginations the opportunity to jump to their own conclusions. There is something to be said for a film which doesn’t force feed its audience; a respectful endeavor that credits our intelligence and knows the best way to stain our subconscious. This also works against it at times as we yearn for paranormal activity and are often left scratching our craniums as boundless residual energy ultimately amounts to little in the way of an entity we can hang our hats on.
This is where we gratefully reach the kicker. Lodge’s performance is downright beautiful; achingly so in fact. For a newcomer such as she to carry such an immense burden without becoming over-encumbered is one helluva credit to this young lady. Molly’s not merely shining her flashlight into dark recesses and displaying the obligatory histrionics; instead her delicate mind is fragmenting increasingly and Lodge’s turn shows commitment to the cause, versatility in the extreme, and the courage of a lioness. Like Deborah Logan, she increasingly shuns her nightdress in favor of letting the cold air blow through her bristles and, at no point, does she falter in her encapsulation of Molly. It is an extraordinary piece of acting and belongs effortlessly to the upper echelons of breakout performances. Lodge has a very bright future ahead of her on this evidence.
Lewis and Holden offer sturdy support; the former is evidently very much in love with his radiant new wife and soundly discombobulated by her progressive slide into the mouth of madness. Her sister is no less adoring and it appears may also have been touched by whatever tragedy befell Molly as a child but Sanchez wisely chooses against over-exposition and instead focuses on the heartbreak she suffers, watching on helplessly as her own flesh and blood slackens her tenuous grip on reality. Any lack of oomph in the storyline department is counter-balanced by Sanchez and fellow screenwriter Jamie Nash’s decision to fashion protagonists we actually care about and all three leads take to their roles with fervor and indisputable acting chops.
Over-sexualization is often a warning sign of former abuse and, the scene whereby Molly lures a conflicted pastor (Field Blauvelt) back to her empty homestead and offers a tryst which any man of the cloth would consider temporarily misplacing his faith over, is tantalizingly tempestuous but shows restraint as opposed to taking the road more travelled. Hard-line drugs are also prevalent as Molly’s plight becomes more helpless and this offers yet another possible explanation for her increasingly petulant actions. However, for all the metaphor, there is an ever-heightening sense of menace which Sanchez massages rather well considering its lengthy duration and any lack of bona fide paranormal activity. Ultimately though, this film belongs to newcomer Lodge, and her faultless depiction of a woman on the verge of mental crash and burn is the main thing you’ll take away come its close.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: What starts out as a reconciliation of sorts ends in an act of violence as the baffled Tim strikes biting from his list of green-lit bedroom antics. This isn’t an isolated incident and Molly gets her sin on one more time, to disquieting effect. Outside of these rare punctuations, one image stayed with me after I waved adieu to Molly. Speaking of the devil, another visual is burned into my hippocampus and considering that is of Lodge stepping out onto her patio with her whiskered puss on exhibit, I’m just grateful for the screen saver. Always was a cat lover.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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