Edinburgh International Film Festival

Lovely Molly (2011)

Starring: Gretchen Holden, Johnny Lewis, Alexandra Holden, Field Blauvelt

Directed by: Eduardo Sanchez

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Gretchen Strong as Lovely Molly

Lovely Molly begins with the familiar click of the camcorder [rec] button and a Blair Witch-style close up on a tear-streaked, desperate face. Here's our heroine, the eponymous Molly (Gretchen Lodge), and she's clearly done something Very Bad.

Click again and we jump to a recording of her wedding to truck driver Tim (Johnny Lewis, aka the Prospect from Sons of Anarchy), the date around four months prior to the first scene.

So far so very found footage. But if, like me, you're a little camcordered-out (The Devil Inside, anyone?) don't worry, because we soon return to a more stable, third-person viewpoint, as we watch the newly-weds settle into their marital home. Which unfortunately (as signposted by an ominous rumble from the soundtrack) happens to be a desolate old farmhouse in the middle of a lonely wood. Worse, it's also Molly's childhood home, and the scene of some mysterious past trauma which has pushed her to drug abuse and psychiatric meltdown.

Set down like that, it all seems a bit preposterous – especially when you throw in the fact that Tim is often away on the road, leaving his fragile wife alone in the big, dark, scary house. But the property won't sell and Tim and Molly, a cleaner, are hardly high earners – is it so hard to believe that they'd move in and try to make the best of things? Perhaps Lovely Molly can join Drag Me To Hell in a new genre I've just invented, Recession Horror?

Besides, despite the hackneyed plot set up, there's something horribly convincing and compelling about this close-up portrayal of a woman's descent into psychotic madness, partly perceived through Molly's viewfinder as she uses her camcorder to chart her experiences in the house. If Catherine Deneuve had got her hands on a camera in Repulsion, her footage might have looked a bit like Molly's, shaky and untrustworthy as her mind, muddled, dark and confusing. Is Molly really being haunted? Is she losing her mind? Or is it in fact a little bit of both?

I love films that dabble in murky supernatural/psychological waters, and Lovely Molly is a rather fine example of the genre. The characters are credible (with the possible exception of Tim, who seems to make some rather odd decisions to suit the plot) and the performances and committed, particularly Gretchen Strong in the title role and Alexandra Holden as her loyal but increasingly frightened sister Hannah. Part unnerving ghost story, part dark representation of the cyclical nature of abuse, it's also, as you'd hope from the writer of The Blair Witch Project, a little bit scary – and I don't say that lightly of movies.

So let's hope the multiplexes can shift aside the witless Chernobyl tourists and vampire hunting dead presidents for 99 minutes to make room for Lovely Molly. She's waiting...

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