AICN HORROR talks with BLAIR WITCH director Eduardo Sanchez about found footage films, his just-finished Bigfoot movie EXISTS, & his new film LOVELY MOLLY! Plus a review of the film
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Below is an interview I did with Eduardo Sanchez who most know from his work as director of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Sanchez has a new film out called LOVELY MOLLY. Now, my review of the film will follow the interview further down the page, but first here’s what Mr. Sanchez had to say about found footage films, his upcoming found footage Bigfoot film, and LOVELY MOLLY which was released this week on DVD & BluRay. Enjoy…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): I did actually just see LOVELY MOLLY just a couple of days ago and man, it was a really scary and warped and twisted film. Congratulations on it. It really was a cool movie.
EDUARDO SANCHEZ (ES): Thank you, man. I appreciate it.
BUG: So can you tell me a little bit about where the story came from and maybe fill in some of the readers as far as what the movie is about who might not know anything about the film?
ES: Yeah, the movie is basically about this woman named Molly Reynolds. She’s young, she’s beautiful, she’s very lovely, and then she moves into a vacant house and she starts being haunted by something and you don’t really figure out if it’s all in her head or her dead dad? “Is it some kind of satanic thing?” She kind of devolves and ends up doing some really bad things by the end of this film and the movie was kind of my… I’ve always wanted to make an EXORCIST movie, ever since I saw THE EXORCIST when I was little and you know, some kind of possession movie and I never thought it would end up like LOVELY MOLLY. I describe LOVELY MOLLY as “An exorcist movie without the exorcist. The exorcist doesn’t show up.” So it just kind of happened. What actually happened is my writing partner, Jamie Nash had an idea, “What if somebody video tapes themselves going through a demonic possession or some kind of possession?” And I kind of just ran with it and it ended up being LOVELY MOLLY, so sometimes you don’t… If some had asked me when I started “Hey, is this going to be the possession movie you want to make?” I would be like “No, I want to make a different type of movie,” but I’m pretty happy with what came out. Some times you don’t know where the inspiration takes you and it’s one of those fun things of being a filmmaker.
BUG: Yeah, well I did want to mention the hand held camera, because you coming from THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, was that something that you’ve shied away from in your other films? What was it that tempted you to kind of go back to that motif in this film? I know it’s a regularly shot movie, but then there are those sections that are kind of hand held first person POV.
ES: Yeah, well the original idea was a total first person kind of found footage movie, but I wanted to shy away from that, not because of anything to do with THE BLAIR WITCH, I mean I actually just finished my first one since THE BLAIR WITCH a couple of months ago, but… My thing about found footage movies is there’s kind of a level of… It’s kind of a gimmick. Like BLAIR WITCH, one of the biggest things we were struggling with was “Why would they keep videotaping themselves when they are going through all of these situations themselves?” It was kind of a level of fantasy or disbelief that the audience has to kind of keep in the back of their minds when they watch a found footage movie I think a lot more than normal films, because there’s a lot of stuff where it’s like “Why wouldn’t they just stop videotaping this thing?” And I knew that I wanted this element in LOVELY MOLLY, but I also wanted to make as honest a film as I could. I didn’t want to pull any punches. I didn’t want to be coming up with excuses for the found footage kind of feel, so I decided to kind of mix the two and LOVELY MOLLY is a completely conventional movie with this kind of found footage angle to it and had it been a completely found footage thing, then it… To me it was kind of an experiment. It was something that I had been wanting to do for a long time and something that I think luckily worked in the film.
BUG: Yeah, and it does seem like you came up with a good excuse for her to keep a hold of the camera and keep running, just because she is going kind of crazy and she wants to prove that this stuff is really happening to people.
ES: Yeah, to me the premise works, I just didn’t want… Let’s say some of the discussions outside of where she is or the stuff at the mall, I wanted there to be real moments having nothing to do with her having this camera out there, so yeah, I think it works. To me it was like… Like I said, I have nothing against found footage movies, but at a certain point I think you have to… You just make the choices you want to make and then you hope that they are right.
BUG: Yeah, well I think there definitely was a good mix of real filmmaking and then found footage filmmaking as well, so it seemed like a really good mix.
BUG: The other thing I noticed was that I’m a big fan of the film THE ENTITY with Barbara Hershey and there are moments in this film that kind of reminded me of that a little bit. Have you seen the film?
ES: Yeah. Yeah, I actually saw the film… It was one of the films I saw before we started shooting. Look, I really like that film to and I don’t know if they could even make that movie now, you know? There seems to be… There are very few movies, like LOVELY MOLLY, basically horror movies that are meant for an adult audience and I think THE ENTITY is one of those films. You look at it and it’s like “Man, there’s some stuff going on there.” So I like that film and was definitely inspired by it, but one of those things that really blew me away was when like a week before I started shooting I was basically just watching as many movies that had anything to do with the subject matter as I could.
I ran across REPULSION on NetFlix and I was really amazed by how close the stories were and I had never seen it before, you know? Once I saw that and as a fan of ROSEMARY’S BABY, I was like “I think I’m headed in the right direction.” There seems to be that’s just the way it is as far as commercial filmmaking, there’s just certain things you don’t want to do in horror films and that’s why I think one of the things I’m proud of LOVELY MOLLY on is I definitely wanted something that’s not typical of a horror film and that’s kind of what I wanted to do. I wanted to explore the kind of horror that I really love, the adult horror that isn’t driven by a teenage audience.
BUG: Was there pressure early on by the studios to make it more of a teenage kind of “jump every five minutes” kind of film?
ES: Yeah, there was. We ended up making the film independently, but we did go around to studios and there was a lot of interest in the script, but again it was one of these things where I think the notes that the people at the studio were giving us was just kind of like “Well that’s not really the kind of movie we want to make.” They were definitely…. I mean look, I understand their position. They want to make a good film and they want to make as much money out of these films as possible, so they were trying to soften it up and they just didn’t understand that it wouldn’t work, so yeah I think there’s constant pressure to kind of… first of all do what’s been done before and what’s been successful and then also just keep it safe. It’s probably the reason I think most good horror films come from the indie world.
BUG: I’m so glad you stuck to your guns and you did it your way, it’s such a more effective movie.
ES: Thanks, man. I think so too.
BUG: Well I wanted to also talk about Gretchen Lodge, “Molly” in the film. She did such an amazing job in this film and you really put her through the ringer. Was there any preparation that she had to do to get to that place? Was there something that you did with her to get her to those really out there places, for her to give that performance?
ES: No, I mean really it was mostly her. I mean I know people have said this before, but casting really is ninety-nine percent of directing. So to me it was about finding somebody who, like you said, could go through the ringer I was going to put them through and when I decided to cast her, that was the big thing with me. “Look, I know you’ve read the script, but do you understand the kinds of things that I’m going to ask you to do? Are you ready for that?” For her it was just like there was this fearlessness that I really admired and I think it’s the biggest reason why I gave her the role, I could really trust her. I knew there was something about her… I didn’t know her, I just met her through the casting process, but there was kind of a trust that I had with her. So the main thing I did was at the beginning say “Look, this is the movie that I’m making, so make sure you know what you’re getting into” and then also my big thing was to try to give her as much of a comfortable environment as possible and as much of a trusting environment between me and the rest of the crew. I just wanted her to feel that she could trust us and so that was basically the biggest thing I did, make sure that she was comfortable and make sure that she was prepared. Obviously we would talk about the character and about what’s happening in the film and what’s happening in the script, but mostly I just tried to show up and make things as comfortable for her as possible and just make sure that everything was rolling, just let her go. She brought that kind of attitude to the set and also in a role like this you kind of… sometimes actors go a little bit too far into it and problems develop because of these things and I’m sure you’ve heard stories of people taking things a bit too far and doing things out of character and doing things that weren’t supposed to be happening, but she was completely in control at all times and she had this remarkable ability to go into these big dark places and then snap out of it with the next minute be joking around and just being basically a normal person on a set. So she did a phenomenal job and like I said, she never flinched man, it was a completely fearless performance. I know it’s my film and obviously I’m proud of it, but I think for me I would put her performance up against any body at any time. I think she did a phenomenal job and I hope that she gets the attention that she deserves, because it really is a great performance.
BUG: It really is. Well I don’t want to reveal too much about the ending, but the choice at the end to show through her eyes what she has been seeing all this time, what went into the decision to do that?
ES: Well the original draft was her walking into the woods, into the darkness and disappearing. That was the way I had it written and that was the way we had planned to do it, but there was also a scene in the early draft of the movie where this demon came to her and you saw the demon for a split second actually in the room that she is in right before one of the scenes with Pastor Bobby and so there was always this plan of showing this demon, showing what she was watching, but once we got into production and once we realized… We were with a fairly limited budget we were working with, we were like “How are we going to do that? How are we going to pull that off with no money?” So we were like “We will just add that in later, maybe digitally…” So we had a test screening and it wasn’t a public test screening, but we did invite some people that nothing to do with the film, but it was mostly friends of ours and filmmakers and writers and people that we admired and we treasure their opinions and the consensus was “You kind of owe it to the audience to show something at the end.” I came across that shot as I was editing and was like “You know, it’d be really cool if this thing comes out and she seems something in these final seconds, to let the audience see something” and it’s still not proof of what was happening, but it was a way of showing what she had been seeing, you know? So we digitally added that thing and it’s just on the edge of darkness and I’m really happy with it. Usually changes you have to make at that point in editing lead to trouble, but with LOVELY MOLLY it was kind of an organic process and we added a lot of things into the film during post that weren’t in the script and it was pretty exciting for me. We were pushing the boundaries and pushing the sound mix. We kind of added a whole new story with the sound mix and I’m pretty happy with it. I think it’s the best sound mix of any of the films I’ve done.
BUG: Well it’s definitely a haunting film. Congratulations on it. One last question, you said you were filming a found footage film after this or you’re doing that now?
ES: Yeah, we are editing it now man. We wrapped about three months ago. It’s called EXISTS. It’s a found footage bigfoot movie.
BUG: Oh cool! I have an unnatural love for even the worst Bigfoot films and there’s a lot of them.
ES: It’s crazy man. Look, I love bigfoot movies too, but there hasn’t really been a lot of great bigfoot movies. He’s kind of become a joke lately and even my film is a bigfoot movie, so it’s not as serious as LOVELY MOLLY obviously, but I think we pulled off something cool. I think we pulled off something that hasn’t been seen. I mean I haven’t seen a bigfoot movie like this I think ever. So we will see what happens. I mean we are still editing it. I’m just very happy with it and you know how it is man, when you are editing you have highs and lows and you kind of feel like “Oh my god, this is an amazing film” and then you’re like “oh my god, how in the hell are we going to sell this movie?” But we are pretty happy with it, so we will see what happens.
BUG: Great, well I can’t wait to see that and congratulations on LOVELY MOLLY. It was a fantastic film and thanks for your time, I really appreciate it.
ES: Thank you, man. I appreciate the interest.
BUG: LOVELY MOLLY is available now on DVD and BluRay! Scroll down for my review of the film.
New this week on DVD/BluRay!
LOVELY MOLLY (2011)Directed by Eduardo Sanchez
Written by Eduardo Sanchez, Jamie Nash
Starring Gretchen Lodge, Johnny Lewis, Alexandra Holden, Field Blauvelt
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
LOVELY MOLLY is not a pretty film. It’s not one of those films with a jump scare and then it gives you time to laugh and let out a sigh of relief. It’s a film that burrows deep and festers under your skin both due to director Eduardo Sanchez’s skill at patiently letting the story unfold and a bold performance by its lead actress Gretchen Lodge who plays Molly, a perfectly normal girl you can’t help but become enamored with as the opening credits display her wedding videos and all of the chaos which leads to making a woman’s special day happen. The horror unleashed upon this person you can help but feel for is set up from frame one and as Molly is put through the physical and emotional wringer, I guarantee some of the more easily offended will not be able to take it.
As I said, this is a film that pulls no punches. It involves a woman being haunted by her past. Is it a ghost? Is it a demon? Is it the product of an unwell mind? Sanchez lays out all of the facts but refrains from giving us all of the answers. What we can agree on is that Molly is a very tormented soul and the horrors she experiences in this film would cause anyone to crack. Shades of THE ENTITY, REPULSION, and THE EXORCIST are definitely present in this film as it centers on the plight of one woman versus otherworldly forces which are assaulting her body and mind to the breaking point. While those films illustrated this descent into madness in their own particular way, so does LOVELY MOLLY. This is due to some deft choices by the director.
The most effective of which is the well tread motif of the hand held, first person POV can seen in most found footage films. Instead of sticking to that motif though, Sanchez has the sophistication to pull off the shift from cinematic filming we are all used to first person POV slickly; only using it when the story needs it. Some other shot on camera uses, such as the assault in the back room of the mall shop caught on a security cam is equally disturbing. This scene in particular could be laughably over the top, but Sanchez subtly uses only snippets of this video intermixed with reaction shots of those watching it, which amps up the effectiveness of the scene to a haunting degree.
The use of sound is also a huge factor in how chilling this movie is. The all encompassing echo of a voice singing “Mmmmolllllyyyyy…” is the stuff that will wake you up at night. Other subtle tweaks like the amplification of the noises from the outside and even the void of silence in key scenes of pure tension make every moment that is supposed to be scary, scary as hell.
Though the effects are at a minimum, there are some scenes that will make your stomach churn. But for the most part, the terror is all conveyed in the performances by the three lead actors. Johnny Lewis plays the most patient husband ever/Molly’s doting husband, who despite her horrible acts, still loves and wants to help her. Her sister, played by Alexandra Holden, is equally good as someone conflicted with the knowledge of seeing her sister devolve, but knowing that treatment will most likely cause her to fall even more. The conflict between these two people in Molly’s life is a well realized one and despite the craziness that we as the audience witness in Molly’s downward psychological metamorphosis, we can see the point of where they are coming from.
Gretchen Lodge, though, steals the movie. 95% of the film is just her in a room reacting to something we cannot see. And despite that, the film is bone chillingly scary throughout because of her actions and reactions. Lodge takes Molly to extreme highs and dark lows in a believable manner that never reeks of melodrama or overacting. Sure to be a big star, Lodge makes this film all the more better because of her performance.
I can’t say enough good things about this film. For its overall sense of dread and creep. For its stellar performances. For its use of sound and inventive use of a much used motif of hand held camera. LOVELY MOLLY is one of those films that does not shy away at boring deep within the viewer and taking them to places that are more horrific than most horror films released by the studios today.
See ya this Friday for our regular AICN HORROR column, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.
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Aug. 29, 2012, 8:58 a.m. CST
Aug. 29, 2012, 10 a.m. CST
Surprisingly though (or maybe not), neither of the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT directors really hit the big time after the success of that movie. Maybe that movie was just a fluke or too big of a burden.
by Mr. Pricklepants
Aug. 29, 2012, 10:32 a.m. CST
Where you don't have to plan different kinds of shots or use tracking equipment. Or do multiple POV. Is FF what rap is to singing?
Aug. 29, 2012, 12:12 p.m. CST
by Ambush Bug
I think found footage done because it's easy on budget without any innovative ideas is the easy way out, which explains the abundance of them released recently. But I have to admit, FF more often than not effects me as a viewer and I end up being scared a lot in those types of films. Now, in LOVELY MOLLY, the reason why she is filming is clearly defined and makes sense. In other films, where the reason why films are not cut when shit starts going down are less defined or not explained at all, the plausibility is questioned and more than likely, the first person POV that makes it most effective is shattered once that POV completely goes against what any normal person would do. I love smartly done Found footagers. But shaking a camera for the sake of shaking a camera is definitely getting old. I think the new trend is going to be monster mash-ups like the finale of CABIN IN THE WOODS, more horror comedies (which I talk with Pascal Laugier tomorrow about) which allow us to mock and laugh what scares us (something I think points out how cowardly the most moviegoers really are), and unfortunately, more zombies.
Aug. 29, 2012, 3:26 p.m. CST
by albert comin
I'd like to congratelate you on your wonderful AICN HORROR column. It has helped me appreciate more the horror and makes me aware of cool horror movies, either new or classics of the genre. Thanks to you, i have now a new hobby, hunting down this small but wonderful horror movies, new and classics, many of them you have reviewed. So, for that, thank you. Keep up the good work, Mr ambush bug, your column is one of the best thing at AICN and no mistake.
Aug. 29, 2012, 4:12 p.m. CST
by Ambush Bug
It's greatly appreciated to be appreciated. I'm having a blast covering all of these horror films and will keep on churning out the good and the bad and all of the inbetween the world of horror has to offer.
Aug. 29, 2012, 4:18 p.m. CST
by albert comin
Right on. I heard that AICN is preparing a Halloween special, revieweing a lot of horror movies one a day as a countdown to the holyday. Is this true?
Aug. 29, 2012, 5:03 p.m. CST
Actually returned to "the Blair Witch Project" after seeing it only twice - the first time during my Seniour Year in High School when it was first released on video...
The second viewing was only a few weeks later and by myself, as the first time I had seen it with friends and family. (I was curious what its effect on me would be like if I saw it alone, in my house in the woods, at night. I didn't plan on there being a particularly volatile storm that night that rattled the windows and peppered the roof with rain and in general made it seem as though the house was under attack by malevolent forces. One of the great hairs-standing-on-the-ends-of-other-hairs moments in my scary movie watching. And this was after already haveing seen it once and not being particularly terrified. It was the pure visceral nature of primal human fears that I was subjected to that night, and it was quite memorable.) So late last week when I decided to see it again after haveing not seen it in over a decade, I was curious about how effective the film would be after all that distance since its particular moment in the zeitgeist. Firstly, the film was quite prescient in anticipateing the burden of doubt that would later be saddled upon so many POV movies - movies undone by their own desire to make the events seem more real than they really are. By addressing the various psychologies of its characters, Sanchez and his crew were able to provide a viable explanation for the filming of events we would otherwise never see. For one, it is incredible how much we actually never see - most of the effect of the film is through what we are told we are seeing, or what images been slyly fed to our imaginations through the film's narrative of the Blair Witch legend throughout the film's run. We see the nighttimare phlights into terror merely because the fact that the video cameras' built-in lights are the most powerful illumination these severely under-prepared campers carry with them. In what would become a heavily parodied image, when the distraught Heather holds the camera beneath her chin and confesses her vanity and niaveity to those who would later see the footage while crying over the lense, it is not so much the need to unburden herself but the childlike possessiveness of the light it provides that leads to the scene. It is as though she is intially blinding herself, finding the only refuge for her spirit to be hideing in its little flood of light. In the daytime scenes the motive for the camera to keep rolling flips between Heather's growing obsession with documenting the horror they are slowly descending into, as though her only weapon against the fear and dread she films is the normalcy she feels behind the camera (beautifully illustrated in the scene where Heather, like the average horror film goer, unravels the package of sticks and bloody strips of clothing that appeared at the entrance of their tent the night after Josh's disapperance - Heather's curiousity and need to know overriding her wisdom and sense of propriety, doing exactly what she knows she should not be doing, and filming it all the while), and this voyueristic persistance is countered by the rest of the crew who use the camera to taunt Heather and one another and also to document their discord, as though by filming they can give greater voice to their dissent (like keeping a record or diary of a court trial). I was pleased to see how strong "Blair Witch" still is, how it balances our fear of the unknown with the simple panic that results from being lost in the woods. While we may feel like children stuck between squabbling parents at times during the daytime scenes, this helplessness and irritation allows for the assault of all-out terror that unfolds in the night. Glad to see that some of these guys are still makeing horror films - they get it.
Aug. 29, 2012, 8:47 p.m. CST
One of the flicks they did after Blair Witch.
Aug. 30, 2012, 12:24 a.m. CST
Good, creepy, low key flick. Saw it in the theater and Ed did a little Q&A at the end. Nice guy, and looking forward to the bigfoot flick.
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