Sometimes a good idea is hard to improve on. So it was when filmmaker Eduardo Sánchez, working with codirector Daniel Myrick, trekked into the Maryland woods with an improvisatory cast and emerged with The Blair Witch Project (1999), arguably the first essential title of a spooked generation. Judging from Sánchez’s Lovely Molly, he’d like to get lost in the trees again, but now knows the path too well. The new effort’s shaky-cam footage—capturing a wedding and its months-later aftermath in an inherited creaky house—feels old hat, a sad irony: If ever there was a director who could rightly claim this gimmick as his own, it’s this one.
Tim (Johnny Lewis) and Molly (Gretchen Lodge, a fresh presence) are struggling to make ends meet. He’s gone for long stretches as a truck driver, while she works as a mall janitor. (There’s a promising moment when the thriller flirts with economic despair.) When their newly installed house alarm goes off in the middle of the night, you suspect the genre’s usual suspects; more involving is Molly’s listless humming from behind her video camera as she explores a dark cellar. (Ambient, effective drones from Chicago post-rock giants Tortoise deserve mention.) Without ruining too much, Sánchez is going for a fear that’s closer to home than any mysterious bumps in the night. His Polanskian psychodrama, shrouded by our expectations, develops violently and, it must be said, with little sense of actual domestic tragedy.
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