Monday, October 15, 2012

Countdown Day 14:

Part of the reason I watch so many movies that one might consider 'bad', and that I myself realize I may not enjoy, is because every once in awhile you come across something unexpected. That was certainly the case with one of Saturday's films.

Lovely Molly has been the victim of an unfortunate marketing campaign, which tries to sell it as a demonic possession film. Just take a look at the DVD cover above; those various runic symbols appear nowhere in the film. The trailer also uses some misleading editing to try and sell the demonic angle, which seems to have resulted in more than a few dissatisfied customers(judging from the people who rent from the video store I work at). In reality, the film owes more the Roman Polanski's Repulsion than The Exorcist or any of it's many acolytes. Lovely Molly is a surprisingly mature and unblinking look at the slow descent into madness and depression as Molly, a child-abuse survivor and recovering heroin addict, moves with her new husband into her childhood home. With her husband away for long stretches of time as a truck driver, she sleepwalks through a janitorial position at the mall and spends her nights terrorized by horrific memories and mysterious, possibly supernatural events at home.

Lovely Molly isn't perfect, but it's grounded by a bravura performance from Gretchen Lodge as Molly, who plays everything with a complete lack of vanity and twitchy despair. The fourth feature from Eduardo Sanchez, one of the two guys behind The Blair Witch Project, Lovely Molly incorporates some of the handheld camera documentary style he utilized in that film, but here it's used only sporadically, as Molly attempts to document her torment and prove it isn't all in her mind. Lovely Molly incorporates this to pretty great effect, and overall it feels like a more assured and measured film than the scattershot intensity of Blair Witch, and it's leagues beyond the bizarre and underwhelming Altered(Sanchez's first post-BWP film).

Later that night, I checked out Kaidan, from Hideo Nakata, director of Ringu 1&2, and Dark Water. An explicit response and rebuke to the modern trends of J-Horror that Nakata helped popularize, Kaidan is a throwback to the traditional Japanese ghost stories of yesteryear. In what could be seen as a nod to Kwaidan, Kaidan opens with a fantastically fake prologue, complete with on-screen narrator and intentionally, noticeably artificial sets(cardboard trees, fake snow). The opening is wonderful, showing how a samurai refused to pay back a debt, and killed the man he owed money to. As he dies, the man curses him, which results in the samurai's death. Years later, the man's son, Shinkichi,  meets the samurai's daughter, Oshiga, and a romance develops. The film quickly falls into a rut as it transitions into a more realistic style, and the romance never becomes very interesting. After an argument leaves the wife with a cut above her eye, she falls ill and eventually dies, but not before cursing her husband in turn, promising that if he ever falls in love with another woman she will kill her.

Kaidan picks up in the last act, as Shinkichi finds himself in a new town, boxed in by the consequences of his wife's curse and believed by the entire town to be a murderer and thief. Unfortunately the film is only fitfully engaging until the final act, and is not a very convincingly told story. Some great moments are scattered throughout, and the film has a pleasing visual style when it comes to the various outdoor night scenes, but the staging is otherwise pretty generic.

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