After changing the horror genre game with The Blair Witch Project, Eduardo Sánchez has returned with a new gritty feature Lovely Molly. This time, instead of only using the first-person camcorder, Sánchez incorporates it sparingly alongside a conventional camera style. The cuts between feature and found footage adds to a sort of mystery, which compels the audience to consider the third-person camera may in fact be another character itself.
True to form with his Blair Witch roots, Sánchez places viewers en media res as Molly (Gretchen Lodge) inform whoever is watching, “Whatever happens it wasn’t me…I’m not in control anymore,” while holding a kitchen knife to her own throat. From here we rewind to her wedding a year before to truck driver Tim (Johnny Lewis), where we see nothing but happiness and optimism from these two newlyweds.
Three months pass and Molly and Tim have moved back into Molly’s childhood home. Everyone in town knows the recent passing of her parents and condolences are often shared. Darkness engulfs the acreage though and it soon becomes clear Tim’s demanding schedule and being away from home is taking a toll on Molly. She begins hearing the clopping of horse feet and the chilling coos of her father’s voice calling out to her. This isn’t a father who loves his daughter but one that lusts after her. As she fights to keep her sanity it seems the demon of her past has never left this home, waiting for dear lovely Molly’s return.
There is nothing more horrifically repulsive than child abuse. The very thought sends a shiver down the spine and boils the blood. Anger and disgust take over all other emotions and the desire to kill those who perpetrate the crime becomes nearly overwhelming. It is this notion that Lovely Molly uses to lure in its audience, causing an emotional attachment to all who watch. Sánchez is wise to use this subject matter because it is truly scarier than any fiction and allows demons and ghosts to become even more real. When a child is abused, not only is his innocence lost but also so is the chance for any sort of normal life thereafter. This is amplified tenfold when the tormentor is someone close to the victim.
Newcomer Lodge does well capturing the young woman who desperately wants to be freed from the chilling events of her past, and courageously attempts to live in the place where she was abused. Molly is beautiful and happy, having successfully recovered from heroine addiction and freed from incarceration in a mental institution. Lodge is believable as the determined girl but it is clear she cannot defeat her father’s presence in this ghastly house. She transforms from beautiful to wretched, with deep, dark bags under her eyes and sweat on her brow. Tim along with Molly’s sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden) are helpless as father continues to rape his daughter at every opportunity, both in and out of the house. Lodge’s eyes expertly capture a deranged look as it becomes clear Molly cannot defeat this evil so now must succumb to its sickening game.
The film disappoints, however, as the rest of the characters come off as uninteresting and completely useless. These are people who don’t deserve sympathy because they have none for Molly. Tim is a horrible husband — and the most unbelievable truck driver ever portrayed on film — rushing to the mouth of his neighbour at the first sign of his wife’s mental instability. Hannah does little more than cry and apologise for not knowing what to do when the answer is quite simple: Get Molly out of the house. Period. Instead she talks about it then retires to her own home leaving Molly alone again. The most interesting character is the abusive father who is never actually seen. Sánchez does well with this sick fuck, as every time his voice is heard you want to stand up and wring the neck of any and all child molesters.
Plenty of aspects of this film will entertain the thriller fan. Found footage is used creatively as the suspense builds for a jump scare at any moment while Molly desperately attempts to prove she isn’t crazy. Lights work like breadcrumbs always leading to the childhood bedroom as these people walk through the house. But by the end of the film you realize there’s nothing particularly scary. Anger is the emotion you’re left with as you leave the theatre. And as the camcorder lustfully gazes out to the next possible victim — a child no older than seven or eight — you may find yourself invested but only as far as you’ll never forgive or forget the heinous acts of this demonic paedophile. The father’s occupation of this house seems fitting, as his deeds are too evil, even for the likes of Hell.