Eduardo Sanchez's "Lovely Molly"

4/30/2014

Whenever director Eduardo Sanchez's name is brought up the words "co-director of the Blair Witch Project" will inevitably follow.  The two sided coin of being responsible for a complete shake up of the entire film industry, but then spending the rest of your career trying to recapture former glory, also known as The "Shyamalan Effect".  As a solo director he followed up with the mediocre "Altered" in 2006 and the unwatchable "Seventh Moon" in 2008.  So when "Lovely Molly" came around in 2011, needless to say expectations were pretty low, and after a bit of hesitation, I found the time to see it.  I can honestly say that this is by far his best film.  The characters, the story and just about everything put on screen it is right on.  "Blair Witch" in itself was not a great movie, but its effects on how films are made and marketed are still felt today.  Conversely "Lovely Molly" is not going to have the same effect, but is a far better film.

"Lovely Molly" owes the majority of its success to Molly herself, played by Gretchen Lodge.  A young woman looking to reclaim her life after a battle with drug addiction and a brutal childhood.  A newlywed who moves back to her childhood home with her husband Tim (Johnny Lewis), a truck driver.  Molly works as a shopping mall janitor with her supportive sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden).  Maybe moving back to her childhood home was not such a good idea, as her mental state takes a steep dive as repressed memories, hallucinations, and ghostly encounters meld into one terrifying situation after another.  There are your classic horror clichés' of creaking doors, investigating noises in a dark and such, but Lodge's fearless and dedicated performance puts this film above others.  It falls into the category of slow burn psychological horror, which can sometimes be code for stupid and boring, but the story and characters (mainly Molly) are given time to develop.  Although it does have its share of horrific imagery it doesn't lean on.

A big part of the story line involves Molly's creepy video diary of her stalking around her neighbors, and wandering in the woods.  Yes, sort of "Blair Witch-esque".  She seems to be possessed during these nightly escapades.  The opening of the film shows her on the other end of the camera with a knife to her throat wanting all of it to end.  Is everything that happens to her real or is it all in her disturbed mind?  This is the main question the film asks and some people will not like the answer.  But I think Sanchez did the right thing in how he chose to end the film.  After a repeat watching Molly's story really is a lot deeper that what lies on the surface.



There is Nowhere to Hide When "You're Next"

4/20/2014

The home invasion horror sub-genre has been done to varying degrees of success in recent years.  Movies like 2008's "The Strangers", Michael Haneke's "Funny Games" and the French horror masterpiece "Inside" are just a few examples of what filmmakers aspire to.  Director Adam Wingard does the genre proud with his brutal and often humorous film "You're Next". 

After a brief introduction scene with indie horror icon Larry Fessenden, we get all of our main characters together in a large and somewhat isolated vacation home.  The four grown kids and their significant others and celebrating their parent anniversary.  This includes brothers Crispian, Drake, Felix, and sister Aimee.  The cast is stocked with indie film regulars Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz and AJ Bowen to name a few.  The plum role of the film goes to Crispian's girlfriend Erin, played by Sharni Vinson.  He has obviously seen (or not cared to notice) only one side of her.  As she grew up on survivalist compound which needless to say pays off big when the house is under siege by three men in animal masks.  The Lion, the Fox, and the Lamb is not a lullaby but a brutal threesome out to wipe out the family with crossbows and machetes.  Their motives and the deeper meaning of their attack are played out later in the film in a place call spoiler territory.  Sorry no spoilers in this review, you'll have to watch the movie.


The madness begins at dinner with arrows flying fast and furious.  Instinct kicks in and Erin switches to survival mode to take control of the situation.  Unlike popular horror movie traditions Erin is not the frightened final girl who cowers in a corner.  She is ready to kick some ass.  Many other common horror clichés are stepped around, but their are still plenty to go around.  The movie has its brutal violence meshed with dark comedic moments to make this a very enjoyable experience.



"Broken" One of the best Unseen Films of 2013!

4/13/2014

The British independent film "Broken" broke through in the UK in 2012 with a quite a splash, winning a number of awards.  The film however has sort of flown under the radar as it wasn't released in the US until last Summer by Film Movement.  Its the dramatic coming of age story of an 11 year old girl affectionately named Skunk.  She is played by first time actor Eloise Laurence, who gives a remarkably real and thoughtful performance. This is also the first feature film for director Rufus Norris.

Skunk lives within a cul-de-sac in suburban London with her Dad Archie, played by Tim Roth, and older brother Jed.  Her mother ran off with another man years back.  They have a live in nanny, Kasia, who serves as a sort of mother or big sister figure.  Cillian Murphy also puts forth a strong performance as Mike, Kasia's boyfriend and Skunk's crush.  The stories of the three families within the cul-de-sac are all compelling and well integrated into Skunk's world.  We open with Skunk talking to Rick, an older friend but mentally unstable neighbor, who out of nowhere get a savage beating from Mr. Oswald, the fiery father of a trio of foul mouthed daughters who are also without a mother.


Adding to the many difficulties of adolescence, Skunk also has diabetes.  She could be bitter and angry about her situation, but is very resilient and strong.  She is adventurous, inquisitive and full of wonder, where as the girls next door are petty, vile, and just plain unpleasant.  The two families are dealing with similar issue in very different ways.  While the third family, Rick's Family, tries to keep to themselves and protect there son from the world.  Rick is a volatile man child.  He has a gentle and sweet exterior that fights with his inner rage and turmoil.  After becoming to much of a handful for his parents to deal with he is put up in a hospital.  Skunk see the good in him,  the longing to be normal and accepted.

The final 30 minutes will keep you on the edge of your seat with a an intensity that is hard to find.  I know that sound a little clichéd, but the filmmakers took such care in developing the story and building its characters that the ending just works on every level.  You won't be disappointed.  And Its currently on Netflix Streaming so you have no excuse.