Director Eduardo Sánchez begins his newest spooky feature Lovely Molly with a deliberate shout out the the film that brung him here, The Blair Witch Project (co-directed with Daniel Myrick). A crying woman confesses into a videocamera, capturing herself in a moment of distress and hoping to leave a clue to be discovered after she inevitably succumbs to an off-screen terror. Sánchez hasn't returned exactly to his old stomping ground of first-person documentary horror - Lovely Molly is for the most part a spooky old fashioned psyche-out horror film - but it's a nice touch in a film filled with them.
Molly and new husband Tim (Gretchen Lodge and Johnny Lewis) are ripped from sleep in their new inherited home by a squalling alarm. Someone has opened their back door and is thumping around in the kitchen, but police find nothing out of the ordinary and chalk it up to the wind despite Tim's insistence that he locked the door.
He's a truck driver, and is away from home for stretches of time in which Molly is left alone to deal with a growing malignancy, a presence in the house that manifests itself as sung voices, crying children, clomping horse hooves and slamming doors. Molly's afraid to reach out to her sister or husband for help, fearing that they'll assume she's lapsed back into substance abuse. She instead begins to videotape her encounters, and it's this footage, as well as taped footage of someone stalking neighbours and visiting an odd underground shrine of some sort, that forms the frightening backbone of the film.
As Sánchez himself claimed in a post-screening q&a, the film is as much an "indie relationship" film and "actor's piece" as horror film. The entire weight of the film is on newcomer Lodge's back and she pulls the whole thing off dazzlingly well, transforming from a slight, trembling girl into a stalking, haunted and threatening woman crawling through an empty house. It's a performance good enough, combined with Sánchez's legitimate gift for crafting arresting moments of weird, totemic and animalistic horror, to transcend the film's kind of tired "is it a ghost or a hallucination" set-up, and take the whole thing into straight-up spooky, straight-up original territory.