Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and her new husband Tim (Johnny Lewis) move into Molly’s old family home, and settle down to married life. However the remote farmhouse harbors dark secrets from Molly’s past and, while Tim is away days at a time with his job as a long distance truck driver, Molly becomes progressively susceptible to something evil which haunts the house and threatens to push her dangerously fragile mind over-the-edge.
Theoretically director Eduardo Sánchez’s Lovely Molly, which masquerades under the misconception that it’s a horror movie, could fall within several genres. Unfortunately the overpowering impression is that it had too many possible directions in which to go – love story, psychological drama, haunted house thriller, even hints of child-abuse though this is more inferred than ever fully established – resulting in a confused and sickening hotchpotch of all of the above.
Nevertheless, the film’s depiction of the strain that adjustment places on any relationship during the initial months of marriage, is wonderfully brought to life by Lodge and Lewis as the young couple at the centre of the whole unfortunate scenario. Lewis in particular is excellent as the well-meaning Tim, who believes he is doing what’s best for Molly by working long hours as a truck driver in order to attain a more comfortable life for them. Whether the increasingly volatile state he finds his wife in each time he returns home would have been lessened had he been spending more time with her, is one of several moral quandaries the film throws up for the viewer to ruminate upon.
However it’s debates like this, along with Molly’s mental disintegration and the alluded to child-abuse (a disturbing topic which appears to be becoming a central theme in modern horror with an alarming frequency), that raise an awkward question. Though there is undoubtedly room for the investigation of such topics within film, is the area of horror, which has always been in danger of trivializing serious subjects due to its often alienating viscerality, really the genre to take them on?
If you manage to look beyond such questionable shortcomings, there are points in Lovely Molly’s favor. Lodge is chillingly believable as the demented Molly, whilst the knowledge that Lewis was to die in real life shortly after completion of the film inevitably though disturbingly adds an extra poignancy to his already heartfelt depiction of the bewildered and frustrated Tim. Their performances – along with strong support from Alexandra Holden as Molly’s sister Hannah, and some atmospheric cinematography by John W. Rutland, which lends Tim and Molly’s imposing farmhouse and surrounding garden a suitably dilapidated air of menace – are not enough however to save the film from the toecurlingly graphic violence once Molly’s psychotic tendencies kick in.
In the end there is one overriding lesson to learn from Lovely Molly, and a message that more modern film-makers should take on board. Namely to focus on a specific genre within one film and stick with it, instead of trying to be all things to all people and failing in the attempt.
Lovely Molly was released in the UK on DVD in October.
Cleaver Patterson is a film critic and writer based in London.