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I hated the Blair Witch Project. Hated it.

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So it seems like a cosmic joke that that lamentable film was a huge success that changed horror films forever and Lovely Molly was unceremoniously dumped and forgotten. The Blair Witch Project was underwritten, frustrating ambiguous and meandering. Lovely Molly is the film where Eduardo Sanchez got the formula right.

Its a difficult film to review because I’m not entirely sure what happened and neither is Molly. What does happen is a powerful and brave performance from Gretchen Lodge. I don’t know where her career will go, but maybe we’ll look back at this like Michael Shannon in Dead Birds, and we’ll remember that there was just something special about this performer.

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Newlyweds Molly and Tim move into Molly’s childhood home with the help of her sister Hannah. This is not a happy reunion, as Molly was the victim of horrible sexual abuse by her late father, which led her to a life of drug addiction. Molly needs a lot of support, but her husband is a truck driver and has to leave for days at a time.

(A personal sidenote:I lived in the area where this is filmed, and truck driving is huge there. Also, outside of town are some dark, lonely roads, which this film captures perfectly. If there’s such a thing as an oppressive silence, that would be it.)

When Tim is away, Molly wanders the house, finds a curious symbol underground beneath the shed…and hears noises in her closet. She becomes convinced that her father is back from the dead, and since he was a fan of equestrian events, she believes him to be transformed into a hideous horse-headed demon.

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There is no evidence of this, of course. There is only the barest intimation, right at the tail end of the film that something is happening. But it doesn’t matter really. Lovely Molly is purest of horror films, of someone going through a very personal hell that they don’t deserve.

The deterioration extends to everything around her, her job, her family and most spectacularly, her sanity. In the end, its not clear what happens to Molly. But she has a sister, who turns out to inherit her baggage.

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This is a chilling film that is most unnerving when its quiet. Showing us almost nothing, hearing something in a stairway clomping like a horse, and singing “Lovely Molly,” as a poor women waits to endure another horror turns out to be one of the most effective formulas in a long time.

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