Thursday, 31 May 2012

LOVELY MOLLY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - "Blair Witch" Co-Director Eduardo Sanchez clearly has talent as a director, but this bargain-basement "Repulsion" is saddled with one of the most moronic screenplays generated for a horror film in quite awhile.

Lovely Molly (2012) dir. Eduardo Sánchez

Starring: Gretchen Lodge, Johnny Lewis, Alexandra Holden


Review By Greg Klymkiw

When I first saw The Blair Witch Project, all I allowed myself to know about it is that, given the title, it would be some kind of horror film and I was also aware it had a huge buzz from its Sundance film festival screening and that there was a huge internet campaign behind it. That's it. That's all I knew. (Even as I write this, I know nothing more about Prometheus other than it's directed by Ridley Scott, has something to do with the first Alien and that it has a cool poster, which sadly, I've been unable to avoid.)

Now, if truth be told, my first helping of Blair Witch blew me away. I loved it. The found footage business, the late 90s penchant everyone had to camcorder their way into moviemaking (as the characters in the film do) and the mounting creepy-crawly tension knocked me on my lardy posterior. I didn't buy that it was "real", but I bought into the conceit as I was quite enamoured with the clever approach and, for me, genuine chills and jolts of terror. I kind of detested the grungy youthful characters, but at least the actors played them well enough that I was gradually drawn into their plight in spite of my curmudgeonly detestation of these rejects from Kurt Cobain fandom.

Not that this sort of thing had never been done before - the brilliant David Holzman's Diary by Jim McBride in 1967 not only creeped me out, but I actually DID believe that what I was seeing was real. When I found out the picture was a "fake" documentary, it was still so layered and intelligent that I've had no problem watching it many times.

Not surprisingly, The Blair Witch Project did little for me on a repeat viewing. I quickly filed it away in the folder within my movie-soaked brain with the label: "clever-conceit-clever-moviemaking-but-not-much-else-going-for-it". And there it stayed until I decided to take a peak at Lovely Molly, a new horror picture from Blair Witch co-director Eduardo Sánchez.

The results are a bag of mixed nuts with only a few pecans and cashews to savour.

On one hand, I give Sánchez points for not succumbing to the high-pitched, blood-soaked hysteria of most horror movies. I also give him points for genuine filmmaking savvy. His compositions are clean and dramatically sound, he doesn't throw in too much herky-jerky movement, the cuts are evenly paced to deliver maximum impact when they have to, he elicits decent performances from his attractive leads and most noticeably, he has a gift for atmosphere.

This is all to the good, and no doubt they're elements that will bamboozle those who should know better into thinking the movie is better than it really is.

Trust me, it's not. The movie is watchable at best.

The screenplay by Sánchez and Jamie Nash is abysmal. I'm not expecting Pulitzer Prize-winning scribbles, but I do demand a story logic within the world of a movie that works. Where the screenplay fails is in creating characters that make sense.

Thanks to the cast, we're happy enough to vaguely root for them and Sánchez's aforementioned mise-en-scene (save for some sloppily integrated cam-corder stuff) are usually enough to hold our interest. Unfortunately, the savvy he displays in creating atmosphere and delivering a slow-build on the tension is also the very thing that gives us time, while we watch the movie, to notice just how stupid the whole thing is.

A babe-o-licious janitor at the local mall (Lodge) and her hunky truck-drivin' hubby (Lewis) move into a huge house left to her in an estate settlement. We quickly learn that the house was the scene of extremely disturbing childhood traumas - EXTREMELY DISTURBING. As well, the movie delivers a Blair Witch-like preface which, while admittedly creepy, telegraphs that really horrible stuff is going to happen.

So basically, what we're dealing with here is a seemingly uneducated working class inbred white-trash couple eking out a near-poverty living in some godforsaken town in the Third World country of America who move into a home fraught with horrific touchstones to a past that so traumatized the Babe-o-licious Janitor that she is a recovered big-time drug addict.

Hunky Hubby knows all too well about her drug problem and is extremely supportive. He's so supportive, in fact, that he spends most of his time on the road in his truck. This leaves the Babe-o-licious Janitor to fend for herself save for occasional visits with and from her Semi-Babe-o-licious-Super-Trashy-Sister who also works at the mall as a Janitor.

So why, oh, why, oh why would this couple eagerly move into a house that is full of painful memories for our comely janitor? Didn't they think about selling it and living somewhere else?

Granted, the movie casually slips in some information that the house is unsaleable. We never find out why. It's a pretty humungous old home with a completely modern interior in a pastoral setting. All one can assume is that this couple was either misinformed by someone more stupid than they are about the value of this seemingly prime real estate or they made the moronic assumption all on their lonesome.

Are these people stupid?

And I mean, REALLY stupid. Not just "stupid" as in the occasional stupid things people do in horror films that get them into sticky wickets, but jaw-droppingly, uncompromisingly, no-doubt-about-it-gibbering-gibbon-like-morons-bereft-of-any-shred-of-brain-matter stupid.

For anyone who bothers to see this movie, I won't spoil anything, but I pretty much figured it out within the first twenty minutes or so. Let's just say that after the couple moves in, bad, creepy, scary stuff happens and for much of the running time, a bargain basement Repulsion unspools. The horrible truth about what happened in the Babe Janitor's childhood is also parcelled out as the tale, such as it is, progresses. What we discover is plenty horrifying - so much so that it's borderline offensive that such subject matter is exploited within a horror film for both entertainment value, but worse yet, within the context of a really moronic script. Sanchez no doubt thought he was making MORE than a horror film and assumed this would lend weight and credence to his picture.

It doesn't.

Are there scares? Yes.

Is Sanchez talented? Well, as a director, there's no question he has chops, but as a writer and producer, one certainly must question his other storytelling abilities and taste.

If you can put up with the occasional flashes of directorial panache within the context of a boneheaded script, then you'll probably enjoy Lovely Molly. All others can stay at home or if horror is required, then they can go see The Chernobyl Diaries, a movie with only minor stupidities, first-rate direction, a pretty cool idea, a surprisingly solid script and white-knuckle tension (in spite of the idiotic critical drubbing it has received - again, from many people who should know better).

"Lovely Molly" is currently in limited theatrical release via Mongrel Media and will roll out as a specialty item.In Toronto, it is playing at AMC Yonge and Dundas.