Tuesday, April 30, 2013

LOVELY MOLLY (Eduardo Sanchez, 2012, USA)

Confronting Demons
Director Eduardo Sanchez has lovingly crafted an oblique horror film by utilizing genre conventions only to subvert them with subtle trickery. Sanchez does this by telling the story from almost entirely one perspective (Molly’s) and rejects any overt supernatural representation, although he expects the audience to make the supernatural a de facto proposition. But here in Molly’s world everything is not as it seems.
The subtext can be extracted through the character interactions and brief exposition: Molly and her sister were child victims if incest and domestic violence. At one point, Molly tells the Sheriff that she has no memories of police calls to the house when she was a child. Her suppressed trauma has led to drug addiction and dissociative behavior. This is a horror story but not a supernatural one: it is a true horror story of childhood rape and its destructive effects into adulthood.
Molly moves back into the house where the entire trauma which included the death (murder, actually) of her father. This is not uncommon for victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse to heal by confronting their past both physically and emotionally. Molly has a supportive husband (another genre cliché subverted) who is aware of her addiction but not so much the reasons: he seems to understand her struggle with the needle but fails to recognize that this is just the tip of the trauma. This is a fault in many who care about those with substance abuse addictions because the drug is only a temporary “cure”; one needs to get under the skin and find out the cause. Molly is soon subsumed by her past and becomes host to a destructive personality much like child victims becoming their perpetrator: that is, children who are sexually abused often abuse others. Molly focuses her aggression upon those who represent a dominant Patriarchy: husband and pastor. She stalks the neighbor woman in secret who has a young daughter that is an avatar of her own self as a young girl, so she kidnaps and buries her, as she wants to bury the past. This is also read as revenge against her husband who has sought solace in her arms (and more intimate regions). Heavy stuff for a modest indie “horror” flick indeed.
The “supernatural” horror is almost entirely subjective from Molly’s perspective. The first opening of the door and the alarm going off could have been an accident without ghostly cause. From there, the voices and sounds are her imagination or projection: very real to her (to support her nightmare logic) but invisible and unheard by everyone else. If this isn't real then she would have to face her own mental breakdown or loss of sanity. Patients with mental health injuries conjure their own fantasies to explain their world rather than accepting the fact that they are ill. The childhood bedroom is where she hears herself (or sister) crying from past events; either after a sexual assault or after her father’s murder (by her sister). It’s important to understand that the artifact of childhood abuse can lead to disassociate behaviors, of developing alternate realities and perspectives in order to survive these awful events. No haunting required. 
The significant objective occurrence is the video from the mall where she is pushed against the wall. The video is interesting because we watch the video from the audience perspective but we are first brought into extreme close-up with Molly. We never see if what is being shown is what is being seen by the manager. Molly sees herself being raped from behind (and it looks very much like an invisible force pushes her against the wall) but we are given conflicting dialogue from her boss. He is seeing something much differently, possibly Molly abusing herself. The scene is very powerful as she reacts with violent sarcasm, unable to believe he doesn't see what really happened. The Director confounds typical spectatorship tropes when the scene is reflected upon and deconstructed.
Her drug use is also a symptom of her abuse, a way of self-medication. The metaphor is clear: the needle is hidden inside of her childhood teddy bear. The supernatural appearances get stronger after she begins shooting heroine once again…as does her violence against men. In one edge-of-our-seat scene, Molly screams that her father is on the way up the stairs and her husband Tim tries to calm her down. Molly instead runs in the bathroom with her camcorder. This scene played out in a similar fashion earlier when Tim was away, and the “Entity” forced its way into the bathroom to take her. Here, as she hides and we see from her POV (from camcorder) Tim actually replaces the creature in her vision: he’s only a disjointed blur that forms into a human shape before becoming her husband. It’s very clear: in her mind, Tim is the creature too. Pastor Bobby also becomes a target of her infections once he shows interest in her sexually. Molly brings this about by seducing him or, more precisely, of awakening that which was dormant. She kills both men the same way: first by biting and then stabbing the screwdriver through the back of the skull. And the screw-driver represents more than just her sister’s murder weapon.
The horse motif is also interesting and very creepy. I see it as the fact that her father treated the horses on the farm with more humanity than he treated the family. The animals were an object of love and affection for him for which the girls were jealous. In other words, they (the girls) were less than animals: hence, the disemboweling of the deer. This is a lashing-out of pure rage and also of fulfilling the animalistic role assigned by her father. If the horses where his true love, she could see him as monster half horse/half man. The photo album where the horse heads are glued over her father’s visage conforms to this belief. 
This is a refreshingly complex film that transcends the horror genre where the conventions often lead to a bloody climax that is empty of subtext. We are left to imagine that Molly and her sister were raped often as children, their mother was unable to stop the abuse, and her sister actually murdered him. Molly was sent to a mental hospital where she spent the remainder of her childhood. The biting most likely mimics the fact that the abuse was or included oral sex upon her father, and the screwdriver a phallic symbol. The fact that this can be read as having no supernatural element, that this in reality could (and often does) happen is the grimmest horror of all. 

Final Grade: (B+)