Found footage is a pain in the ass. But it’s an effective pain in the ass, and when used right it delivers wonderful thrills to a receptive audience. The problem is that every scene that ISN’T a scare scene in a found footage movie is a slog, and often an unmotivated one at that. The only parts of found footage movies I like are the scary parts, and that’s why there will never be a truly great found footage horror movie.
But what if you just used the found footage gimmick during the scary parts? That’s what Eduardo Sanchez, co-director of The Blair Witch Project and thus one of the grandfathers of the latest found footage craze, does with Lovely Molly. In the film the main character is haunted by - or thinks she is haunted by - a malevolent spirit. Whenever the spirit approaches she picks up the camera and we go from a standard narrative to a first person camera POV.
It’s effective. Lovely Molly is a decent film (with a great central performance by Gretchen Lodge), but what really intrigued me was the way the found footage aesthetic - including night vision - was integrated into a traditional narrative feature. In some ways this only highlights the gimmick nature of first person POV (I’m reminded of an old film called The Mask, where only certain segments were in 3D. “PUT THE MASK ON NOW” a voice would intone at the beginning of the segments, telling you to don the 3D glasses), but so what? This aesthetic IS a gimmick - sometimes an effective one, but one nonetheless.
Lovely Molly is structured in a way that makes you guess whether Molly really is haunted or whether she’s relapsing into drugs and a paranoid state. It all hinges on Lodge’s performance, and I found her magnetic and intriguing, so it worked for me. The third act drags things out a little too much - there are some killer reveals, but the pacing is off - so the movie doesn’t end as well as it could have.
But the scare scenes work, especially if you’re a fan of haunted house movies. I’ll never stop being scared by the sound of spooky footsteps just outside a closed door, which is good because that’s most of what Lovely Molly has to offer. I do like that the movie allows Molly’s backstory - while is obvious from the second reel, to be honest - to go mostly unremarked. We discover her history with drugs, her prior history with strange events and her troubled family life slowly.
Lovely Molly is about two thirds of the way to being really, really good, but it has enough going for it that I enjoyed it. Let’s hope other filmmakers pick up on Sanchez’s mixing of aesthetics, saving us from any future feature length found footage films.