Since they made The Blair Witch Project in 1999, writer-directors Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick have had some difficulty shaking off the one-hit-wonder tag, perhaps because of the hand-held, amateur documentary style of the film. Having gone his separate way, Sánchez gave us the enjoyable, low-budget alien horror Altered in 2006, and now presents low-budget spook story Lovely Molly.
After their wedding, Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and Tim (Johnny Lewis) move into her late father’s house. With Tim on the road a lot, Molly has a lot of time to herself. But is it loneliness or things going bump in the night that sets her back on the path to bad habits? And is it the memory of her father haunting the place or is the man himself returning to make her life hell?
There are some things that we really liked about Lovely Molly. Sánchez makes the most of a clearly very tight budget with few locations. Home video footage is used but it doesn’t make up the whole film (a great relief). And there’s not a single star to be found, the most recognisable face is Johnny Lewis from TV’s Sons of Anarchy. There’s also an admirable determination to let character drive the story without any big, forced revelations. Character is sketched rather than intimately detailed, in a good way.
But the biggest problem with Lovely Molly is that there’s not a lot to it. A lot of low-budget tricks are used but there’s more a feeling that they’re covering for a lack of substance rather than a lack of finance. Sánchez’s determination to show as little as possible does make a nice change from the norm but as the film progresses you can’t help but wonder if it was because there was nothing to show. There are bits and pieces of horror film tropes dotted around, and while some of them work well (surprisingly, the home video footage works very well indeed), a lot of them really don’t. A good performance from Lodge can’t hide the fact that the character of Molly is wildly inconsistent. The first half hour or so is often incredibly tense but there’s not enough to it to maintain that sense of dread.
If Lovely Molly had been a first feature we could be a lot more forgiving, but after a promising, understated start the film’s weaknesses become glaring. There are strong pieces but it’s a disappointing whole.