Early success in the film business can be a strange thing. If a writer/director’s first film is not only a hit, but also a cultural phenomenon where does their career go after that? After an unprecedented success, how an artist is measured and, subsequently, monetized by the film industry can determine the opportunity they are given to grow creatively. Case in point is Eduardo Sanchez, co-writer and co-director of the cultural zeitgeist known as The Blair Witch Project. After the success of The Blair Witch Project, Sanchez and co-writer/director Daniel Myrick were examined and studied by the film industry. They weren’t studied for the creative genius that started an entire new sub-genre of horror, found footage, or for the promise they showed for the future of horror. No, the only real interest the film industry had was in the incredible profit margin The Blair Witch Project accomplished. This resulted in “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2”, which ironically, and puntastically, resulted in a film that was a mere shadow of the intent of the first film. Sanchez and Myrick then seemingly disappeared into the murk of the industry. Thankfully for the horror audience, Sanchez has reemerged with Lovely Molly, proof that the reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.
Lovely Molly begins with the story of newlyweds Molly(Gretchen Lodge) and Tim(Johhny Lewis), a seemingly happy couple who have decided to move into Molly’s childhood home. This being a horror movie, that decision turns out to be an exceptionally bad one. Due to Tim’s job as a truck driver, Molly is left alone in said house a majority of the time. This leads to Molly facing bad things, that will remain nameless here for the sake of spoiler protection, alone. What can be said, though, is that these bad things are portrayed in a particularly effective way. Through the use of audio, a subtle high pitched tone pierces a large portion of the film, and skillful placement of the camera, which manages to keep the evil just enough out of sight, Sanchez creates a horror experience that works on a pure visceral level. Most of the horrific scenes would work without much insight to any plot or character development. This is a good thing, because Lovely Molly doesn’t provide an overabundance of either.
To be clear, this lack of plot or character development is not a criticism of the film. Lovely Molly provides just enough of each, and absolutely no more, to keep the audience in the dark, while allowing them to understand enough to sympathize and care for the sequence of events that unfold. Lovely Molly is ambiguous, there is no arguing that. From the motivations of certain characters to the final quizzical shot of the film, Sanchez revels in providing only the information that is needed to hold the narrative together. He does not seem interested in providing the explanation for all of that information, some of which seems intentionally two-sided. While this might annoy a certain populous of horror fans, this approach is what allows Lovely Molly to be as tense, and yes a little terrifying, as it is.
The truly incredible thing about Lovely Molly is that it exists. After the industry absorbed and capitalized The Blair Witch Project it would be understandable to see a writer/director be absorbed as well. Not to point fingers, but there are a fair share of directors who have made a groundbreaking, independent debut only to be content to join the assembly line of the studio system, manufacturing a lifeless version of the formula they once created. With Lovely Molly, Sanchez takes risks. He seems to have no interest in the industry and their “Book of Shadows” approach. Sanchez clearly wants to make creative and daring films. As a result, Lovely Molly will not be an easy “popcorn” movie for people to digest. The horror here is not traditional, and much like Blair Witch, turns some conventions directly on their ear. As a viewer, I was surprised by the eventual path Lovely Molly took. And as a horror fan, I thank him for that.