The Bloody Truth: “Lovely Molly”

lovely molly

Welcome to a new weekly feature at Heave, The Bloody Truth, in which columnist Calhoun Kersten considers various horror movies, modern and classic alike, in their larger social contexts. SPOILERS ahead.

Horror movies, although frequently discarded as “trash” or “nonsensical,” serve an important function in our society. They talk about what’s just beneath the surface. They interrogate what’s lurking in the shadows of contemporary culture and harness that fear, even exploit it, to make something visceral. After all, at the heart of each horror film is something undeniably honest that speaks to the audience. Perhaps that’s what makes horror so lovable, or for others, it may be what makes it so contemptible. Whatever your feelings on the genre may be, there’s no denying that there’s very little room for middle ground on the topic. Here at Heave, this column is dedicated to digging beneath the surface to expose that core truth that makes horror so haunting.

The first movie up is this year’s Lovely Molly. Lovely Molly had a quiet release and didn’t get much attention, even within the horror community, but it remains a fascinating character study. The film follows Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and her husband Tim (Johnny Lewis) as they move into Molly’s father’s house. Molly, a recovering heroin addict, slowly becomes unhinged as memories of her traumatic childhood resurface. The film is unclear on whether or not the scares are supernatural or not, instead choosing to leave the question unanswered for the audience to resolve itself. However, more unnerving than the ghostly whispers and the slamming doors is what Lovely Molly has to say.

One of the crucial storytelling points is Molly’s history. While the film only alludes to events in her childhood, director Eduardo Sanchez spells out Molly’s addiction. At the heart of the film is a very human story about a young woman’s addiction, her relapse and her subsequent attempts at rehabilitation. Make no mistake, supernatural or not, Lovely Molly is first and foremost concerned with the mental state of its protagonist. Lodge gives a standout performance as Molly, wavering between meek and outlandish, wild and enraged. However, it isn’t just about her performance, it’s about the character’s core relationships.

One which Lovely Molly could stand to spend more time developing is Molly’s relationship with her sister, Hannah (Alexandra Holden). One of the most telling moments is toward the end of the film, when Tim calls Hannah over after Molly has violently assaulted him. Tim wants to call the hospital and have Molly checked out for safety’s sake, but Hannah stops him by saying, “You have no idea what they did to her there.” It’s a simple enough line and was probably inconsequentially written in to pad the film, but it calls something greater into question.

As the film explores whether the events of Lovely Molly are reality or insanity, that small line begs the question of how all the pieces of this film fit together. There are countless references to Molly’s father sexually abusing Molly and Hannah. One could surmise that this would drive someone to unhealthy means of coping, such as substance abuse. So far, the film follows a very standard line of pop psychology to explain its troubled lead. However, when Hannah says that, the film pulls another factor into play. It’s common knowledge that in rehab, there’s a good deal of therapy. People are asked to look for elements in their lives and their past behavior that may have driven them to substance abuse. Frequently, people are even asked to confront their past traumas. For a character such as Molly, this would certainly include the instances of sexual abuse that possibly drove her to heroin.

As Lovely Molly progresses, the torment increases. What began as haunting whispers begin to manifest themselves physically and begin to affect Molly in every aspect of her life. This haunting can be directly tied to Molly’s psyche as her ability to repress crumbles. Her inability to process these events, which are never depicted, is destroyed as she finally surrenders herself to the torment of her sexualized past. Lovely Molly seems to suggest that through rehabilitation and her confrontation of her father’s sexual abuse, Molly is made worse rather than better.

Furthermore, the film goes so far as to characterize her as a product of this violent and sexual upbringing. Lovely Molly manages to do this in its few death scenes. The film is grounded in its uncertainty, and therefore the body count is significantly less than its slasher counterparts. Nevertheless, the depictions of violence are inherently sexualized. When Molly first attacks Tim, she does so by kissing him and eventually biting his lips. When Pastor Bobby is killed, they make it a point to show Molly naked as she surrenders her body and Bobby surrenders himself to his temptations. The next shot is of Bobby with bite marks all over his body and a screwdriver in the back of his head. The only other death in the film is of a young girl, who is not killed onscreen, but her body is found towards the end of the film. This could easily be read as the death of Molly’s innocence as a young girl.

Lovely Molly doesn’t provide the answers as to what’s in Molly’s imagination and what’s supernatural. It instead explores the possibly supernatural through the lens of its main character. Characterized by her addiction, Molly’s own crimes are informed by her own past. Violent and sexual, Molly’s childhood and her inability to cope are at the heart of this film, which makes it a deeply troubling and unforgettable study in the horrifying nature of humanity itself.

  • Excellent review. Few if any movie reviews on Lovely Molly even hint at the idea Molly is molested by her father. This is a sobering fact that today in society we are more concerned about what will entertain us than what we are; as you put so succinctly in your closing statement “Nature of humanity itself.”

  • I just finished watching this film. This was one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen in a very long time. The reviewer has nailed it.

  • I have just watch this film and I have so many doubts and I have more doubts after read this review the principal doubt that I have is a personage that is has not a referece in this review that is th Molly mother, the Molly mother is the most subtil personage in the narrative, is the Molly mother the woman that apears to make oral sex in the sofa? and who is the guy that is with the Molly mother the envagelic Priest? my first theory after watch the movie is that Molly is fascinated by the father and revange the mother incest by personificate ther personallity of the father by killing the two guys in the film… and another doubt is why the husban of Molly tells that is sorry? what he makes of wrong to say sorry? but is a very strong emotional and pertubate film a deap film very intelegent…. sorry for my english gretings from Portugal

    • The woman giving oral sex is the neighbor and the man she is giving it to is Molly’s husband, not the priest. That is why he apologizes when he sees that she had recorded it.

      • Big D

        yah that nails it really dawg

  • cdgilli

    The only thing I disagree with in your review is the dead child. I thought it was more of a ‘you took someone dear to me,so I’m doing the same to you’re kind of thing.

    • kristin

      ehhh yeah I’m not sure. Molly never got to live a childhood thanks to her fathers abuse, so I think it’s a safe, abstract thing to think that Molly killed a young girl because she didn’t get to live a childhood, which would work with the “you took something dear from me, I’m gonna take something dear away from you” mentality you’re trying to get at. Tim, Molly’s husband, is totally wrong for cheating on Molly with the neighbor lady, but I don’t think he did anything to her, but I could be wrong.

  • 123456

    Doesnt molly also kill tim?

  • hollag

    nigga, yawl need to realize this bitch aint playin around dawgg muvvafucker crazy y’all this hoe needs some jesus mclovin, non of this nasty dang father shit!

    • Melissa Perkins

      Best comment ever.

  • jonny two-feet

    i wanna know what the dead deer is all about. i also really love the weird horse imagery. on checking out the lovely molly website, it appears all this has some strange connection with a horse-headed demon, or deity, that could be possessing her. very interesting, chilling stuff.

    oh yeah, and what the fuck was the tree-man at the end all about?

    • kristin

      I think the apparition appearing at the end (I read the Wiki on this movie, so sorry) was suppoesd to be a personification combination of her father and a demon named Orobus. The dead deer, idk about that.. Maybe she was really fond of them when she was a little girl? Like they gave her a kind of solace, so thatt’s why she killed one and kept it for so long? The Wiki didn’t explain that lol.. There’s so much symbolism in this movie, and I think that’s what makes it one of the best horror movies to date.

      • Mackenzie

        How I see it, there are many ties between wild animals and Molly’s father throughout the film to represent a tie she makes mentally and emotionally between the two, as though she truly sees her father as an animalistic being. When she removes her father’s face from the album (as it’s most likely very disturbing for her to see and reflect on), she replaces it with the heads of horses; when she discovers the dead deer, she brings it home and later refers to it as her father when Hannah discovers her clinging to it (this case is strange because she laments its dying, making me think she was in love with her father in a tragic, Stockholm kind of way). It reads less like symbolism established from existing lore and more like imagery specific to this film. Her father is a beast to her, but one she sadly misses – at the end of the film, she willingly walks into his embrace.

  • Jess

    so why was molly asking her sister if she remembered what happened in that room and what is the connection with her father and cutting his faces out of all the pictures and replacing them with horses heads? were the children abused by him? also, I know at the end the mother is seen putting the children to bed and sitting with tim but if she had recorded them together..who were the children the mother put to bed?

    • kristin

      The horse-head thing has to do with this demon named Orobus, who is depicted as having a horses head, so I guess her father is some demon reincarnate.. And yes, both Molly and Hannah were abused by their father as children. Something I find quite chilling (and this was said on the Wiki of the movie) was that when Hannah confronts Molly as Molly is hugging/stabbing the dead/rotting deer, Molly yells at Hannah saying their dad told Molly how Hannah killed him, and Hannah’s response was that she was just trying to protect them from their father.. See, I never fully figured that part out: whether or not is was true her sister killed their dad, or whether she really just attacked him with a knife one time because she was done with his abuse towards her and her sister. Maybe he just got sent to jail for life. But if her sister really did kill their dad then.. wow, wasn’t expecting that. And as for that “mother”, its a neighbor that lives beside Molly and Tim, who Molly’s been stalking for a while. She films the neighbor lady putting her own kids to sleep, then she goes over to Molly’s house where Tim is the only one there. Hope that clears things up, I love this movie so much :)

      • MaxeyTheStrange

        Great answer! Abolutely concluded a similiar thing. This Orobus thing is terrifying.

  • mim

    definitely abused by father – both sisters & father’s abuse still lives on as a ghost/memory. Was she the one filming that kid all along?

  • Gegis

    Just saw this film last night. Great review. I totally agree!

  • MaxeyTheStrange

    Hey, don’t forget all about the demon embrasing Molly in the end of the movie. Check it up at google or whatever, but that sceal she finds in the beginning of the film is connected to the “ghost” of her father who I believe is enpictured by the demon at the end. This demon is read about in old books about hell, Satan and other demonic enteties. In some way, I’m not sure though, supposedly her father has come back in the form of this demon to keep Molly under terror just as he did when he was alive. Concerning Hanna at the end, he might move along to her now that he already have got Molly, to complete the circle, so to speak. Partially of course this movie is about psycological problems, but not all who seem crazy are. If people in Mollys surounding would have believed and trusted in her, she might not ever had given up and follow the beast. Without the full support of loved ones you can easily throw in the towel. Wheater it’s concerning psycological disorder, drug addiction problematica or a curse from the underworld, without help, you might not get through. I believe this is what the film s partially about.

  • Arun_Sehgal

    The most cliche and dishonest storyline in hollywood; a father raping their child. Nothing original about this movie but it does succeed and creating more hysteria and therefore propaganda for the feeble minded of our feminized world that MAN IS BAD/PERPETRATOR AND WOMEN GOOD/VICTIM. Fuck you.

    • Alan Rooney

      Men’s rights activist?

      • Arun_Sehgal