After thirteen years, it's surprising to see any studio or distributor name-dropping 'The Blair Witch Project' as if it still holds any sway over the public's decision to watch a movie. I would imagine horror fans, in particular, seeing that and being instantly convinced this is one piece of dreck to definitely avoid. By now, seeing such drastic marketing ploys, especially in this instance of reminding us of 1999's shocking sleeper hit, as a desperate plea to moviegoers, begging to give 'Lovely Molly' a chance. But frankly, reading either of those names only seems to promise a shoddy disappointment with a nary scare and even worse, some lame attempt at redefining the horror genre. In this case, that attempt is downright stupid and a cause for sheer frustration instead of a fear of the unknown.
From the opening moments of a frazzled woman asking forgiveness and denying responsibility for the so-called horrors we are about to see, it's clear the movie will offer little originality in its effort to draw up some scares. The sequence is a blatant, and I would argue somewhat embarrassing reference to 'Blair Witch,' which Eduardo Sánchez co-directed with Daniel Myrick. Here, he co-wrote the script with Jamie Nash, who has yet to do anything noteworthy, and directs solo, occupying nearly every frame with vaguely familiar images which were better done in other movies. The same woman is later seen sitting naked on the corner of a bed and creepily staring at the corner of the bedroom, bringing to mind the exact same image from the conclusion to 'Blair Witch.'
For the rest of the movie, Sánchez pulls the same typical maneuvers of unexplained noises heard in other parts of the house, trying to give the impression it might be haunted by a supernatural presence. The house belongs to newlyweds Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and Tim (Johnny Lewis). The camera, which is a mix of traditional filmmaking and found-footage, is always looking over the shoulder of characters or from around corners so that we never actually get a good look at the shadows. As the story develops and the spooky sounds intensify as a weak means to have viewers question if it's real or some demonic force, logic suddenly intervenes and exposes the plot for the idiocy it really is. Why move into a house that is the source of Molly's childhood trauma and then conveniently make her sleep alone for long stretches of time because Tim is a truck driver?
When it comes to the "is it real or not" side of the story, there's no question about it. Sánchez makes it fairly obvious Molly is slowly losing her sanity, the one and only trait of the movie that's worth any praise. It's not at all scary mind you, but it's interesting nevertheless. Making her acting debut in this dreadful garbage, Lodge is actually superb in the role of a young woman unable to handle the realities of life and becomes deranged. Knowing this pretty much eliminates the potential to terrify audiences, replaced with the frustration of seeing others around her denying Molly the help she so desperately needs. And by the way, the whole infidelity and recovering heroine-addict aspect of the story is a completely unnecessary dramatic device — the sort amateur writers are often guilty of.
Another positive within a movie made entirely of negatives is hearing the music of post-rock pioneers Tortoise used to great effect. Their somewhat melancholic but also serene sounds add a strange creepiness to the visuals which is surprising. But aside from that and Lodge's shocking performance, 'Lovely Molly' is an outright bore — a dyed-in-the-wool snooze-fest of the worst kind because it's so uninspiring and lacks total creative originality. You spend more time angered and almost yelling at the stupid behavior of the characters when confronted by the evident mental sickness of a loved one. It's not scary; it's just plain stupid. Anyone finding this movie remotely creepy, either needs to watch more horror movies or check themselves into the nearest mental institution.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Image Entertainment brings 'Lovely Molly' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD-25 disc inside a blue eco-lite keepcase. At startup, the disc commences with a short collection of skippable trailers. Then, it switches to the standard main menu window with full-motion clips and music.
'Lovely Molly' goes mental on Blu-ray with this generally satisfying but also problematic 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Shot entirely on HD cameras, the video displays excellent fine object detailing of the house and strong delineation in the shadows during several poorly-lit sequences. Skin tones appear natural with lifelike textures and distinct lines in the hair of the cast in close-ups. Colors are not particularly vibrant but accurately rendered nonetheless. Though falling on the flat side for a majority of the runtime, contrast maintains decent balance with clean whites while black levels are deep and often intense in many scenes, providing appreciable depth.
Unfortunately, the 1.78:1 picture frame is also fraught with several plain artifacts throughout. The aliasing and stair-stepping from the handheld camera footage is easily forgivable, but the copious amounts of banding are not. Much too often, this ruins shadows into black, digitized mush and quickly turns into a major distraction. Highlights are almost always blooming with severe clipping and creating very visible posterization. If not for this issues, this high-def transfer would sever the movie much better.
Thankfully, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack doesn't suffer from any serious issues. In fact, it's the best aspect of the entire package with terrific use of the surrounds for generating a creepy ambience. Several discrete effects fill the room with excellent directionality and flawless panning. The music of Tortoise also bleeds into the background with ease and satisfying envelopment. Dialogue is well-prioritized in the center with fluid clarity and distinctness while other scary sounds broaden the soundstage with smooth channel separation and convincing off-screen activity. Several scenes come with the requisite high-pitched jump scares, but the mid-range handles them with good fidelity and detailed precision. The one minor disappointment is in the rather anemic low-end. There is bass to be sure and palpable on occasion, but it fails to add any power to those scenes you'd expect to have a weighty impact.
Supplements are a weird collection of wannabe 'Unsolved Mysteries' type of featurettes which hilariously provide more information about the movie's plot, filling in the holes about the house, its mystery and Molly's past.
By this point in Eduardo Sánchez's career, allowing references to his one and only film success for marketing his latest efforts is proving to be an embarrassing distraction. The association is also becoming a promise for disappointment, which 'Lovely Molly' is through and through. Aside from a great performance by Gretchen Lodge, this supernatural-horror thriller is a complete snooze-fest and just plain dumb. The Blu-ray arrives with a troubled picture quality but a strong audio presentation. Bonus features are mildly interesting but ultimately forgettable for a really crummy movie. This is a rental at best.