If I could shorten this review to one word it would be: yum.

It occurred to me the other day, in dialog with another movie lover vis-à-vis the ideology and use of gore, that horror movies...or should I say GOOD horror movies...are like PASTA.  Go ahead and scoff at me, it's fine.  But I'm right.  Good horror is like good  pasta.  I shall explain: the componants of horror are varied, but you can reduce it down to two basic pieces that make up all of the horror related across time: substance and gore.  The substance is the plot, characters, mythos, wordplay, and so on - the pasta.  The gore...well, that's the sauce.  Let's face it, in most horror (especially in the olden days) someone gets a'sliced up or eaten or burned at a stake and so on.  A trueborn horror movie has the perfect blend of both substance and gore, pasta and sauce, those timeless ingredients of a masterpiece meal.
And oh is "Lovely Molly" a dish.  Directed by Eduardo Sánchez (director/co-writer of Blair Witch...I know, I had my reservations too...Blair Witch was a product of its time and a valiant effort but...kinda overbuzzed for what it was), this film is in my humble opinion exemplary of the expert combination of character acting, mythos, mystery, local color, shock-horror, and that final saucy sauce: blood'n'gutz.  I ended the film sated with the story, and sad that it didn't go on longer, in the same manner that one wishes a good book goodbye like some old friend.  The plot twists in this thing are also bad + ass.

Centered on the life of Molly (Gretchen Lodge), a low income mall janitor with a closet full of secrets behind her, the movie begins with the pastoral images of her quaint wedding to her truckdriver husband Tim (Johnny Lewis), attended by a girl we soon discover is her sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden).  Molly and Tim are that "even though we ain't got $" couple, as they move into their new home in a wooded area with quite a bit of land.  I'm not sure where this setting is supposed to be, or if they make references to it in the film, but it reminds me a lot of the poorer rural areas of upstate New York, though that was just how it resonated to me.  Since they do not have adequate funds to purchase their own home, they move into the empty house of Molly's parents, now deceased.  

What endeared me to Molly, Tim and Hannah is their struggle and the past darkness that they just don't talk about but still visibly grapple with.  These actors do not appear Hollywoodized.  They do not look like they have personal trainers and eight hours of make-up done just to look like a perfect person pretending to be imperfect.  The genius of these characters is the imperfections are plain, and painful to see. Put simply and without the political correct parlance of our time: they pull off poor people with just enough of a touch of white trash to convince you that they are representative of a huge portion of struggling Americans in the same grim chainsmoking minimum wage fucked up world.

That Tim and Molly have this seeming gift of a house should be a helping hand; instead the house is the harbinger of their undoing.  Haunted houses are one thing, but this story is far deeper and more convoluted.  Molly is witness to the flashbacks of her past experiences, many of which were blocked by trauma or child confusion.  This leads her to undergo a transformation into both the stereotypical hysterical female (the woman no one believes until it is too late) AND the evil woman (the woman we blame it all on) and the victim (the woman who must bear the sins of those who came before her).  That Molly combines all of these film/fiction personas is testament to the complexity of her character and the mastery Lodge demonstrates.  Without spoiling, there are several places in this film where I remarked to myself that the scenes must have felt very invasive and self-degradating or maybe even cathartic to execute. All I know is I don't think I could have done them. Lodge can and does.  Give her an award. Give her some good pasta.
The movie cleverly plays with use and disuse of the video camera, perhaps as a partial callback to the Blair Witch/reality/home movie simulation genre birthed into horror at the turn of the century.  It also cleverly plays with camera angles and sound - particuarly subtle sounds, even more so than other horror movies I have seen using just a touch of some element to cast a shadow here and there.

What we ultimately have is the combination of decent into madness and something else, the question that makes every single human being shiver at some point or multiple points in our brief little lives, whether it has to do with daydreams, fears, nightmares, suspicions, rumors, sickness, lies, the past, hallucinations, and so on.  That question: IS IT REAL?  And I think in the case of Lovely Molly, perhaps this question is too easily answered, which would be the one little stick of criticism I would float in here, but it isn't substantial enough to fuck up the movie.  If anything, that the movie does give you is a direction, in my case what I felt was a decisive departure from the camera flitting and somewhat arguable images of Blair Witch.
Lastly GORE.  Gore is like cursing or yelling.  Too much of either and people simply do not take you seriously.  Without going into it, the gore in this piece is choreographed with care and precision, and yes oh yes, there IS THAT MOMENT where you want to jump out of your seat and scream "Ohhhhh!  That did NOT just happen!  AND I crapped my pantaloons!"  (disclaimer: I did not just admit to crapping my pants) 

Which brings me to what always gets my hairz a'standing on end: mythos.  Molly's folly (teehee) is her exposure to that powerful element found in so many horror movies and is often underused and misused and misunderstood and undeveloped, etc.. In this case it's just elusive and mysterious enough that you want more, but don't feel like you've been cut short an explanation.  You know it: the sinister dark presence.  Hard to do right.  Elusive as fuck.  But when it's done right makes you scared of the ancient things on this earth.  Scared of of the rocks you stand on and the trees behind your house and the darkness at the basement floor.  That's horror people.  You can spin it any way you want it and argue until you are blue in the face that campy stuff is equally wonderful but it is movies like these that burn holes in your brain in the shape of questions marks.  Delicate, but effectual.  Yum.
WTF = 27 
W = 8
T = 9
F = 9




When you really love a given work it becomes difficult to render an appropriate review. This issue becomes even more burdensome when this work is, by most movie-quality-barometers, a complete and utter stink bomb. A Return to Salem’s Lot, a sequel in name only, to Stephen King’s heralded original work, Salem’s Lot, is quite possibly the most absurdly underrated “crappy in-name only” sequel in history. This film is truly up there with the likes of Halloween III and Zombi IV in the “would be a classic under a different name” category.
The soundtrack is memorably creepy, harpsichord-ridden, and begging for a techno remix; allowing for the film’s atmosphere to set in without any defense. Those of you with lifetime experiences in the American Northeast will have no difficulty attaching your receptors to this setting. Bovine country indeed.
Donning Hollywood starlets, horror cheese mainstays, and decorated actors from the golden age of cinema; this film has the cast alone to separate itself from the pack of oft-forgetten straight-to-video sequels. Famed Charles Grodin lookalike Michael Moriarty (The Stuff, The Stand) turns in a tour-de-force performance as the only character he knows how to play; a hard-as-nails, woman-ravaging, manly-man in the body of a shoe store manager from Seattle. Andrew Duggan and June Havoc also chime in as the undead Aunt Clara and Judge Axel, the latter of which is the “king of the vampires” type, who eerily resembles my grandfather.
Speaking of star power, A Return to Salem’s Lot features former Hollywood slam-piece Tara Reid (American Pie, recipient of botched boob job, seen here with melted face) in her first performance, as a lovable pre-teen vampire who tries to seduce Michael Moriarty’s smart-ass son, Jeremy; an unforgettably ginger badass with a mouth like a trucker and a filmography that could fit on a fortune cookie paper.
These casting accolades are a clear second place to the involvement of screenwriting, acting, and low-budget film legend, Samuel Fuller. This self-described “nazi killer, not nazi hunter” is a breath of fresh air, as he is halfhazardly thrust into a plot involving vampires for NO DICERNABLE REASON WHATSOEVER. This is the beauty of cheese-cinema. If you can’t have an elderly nazi hunter in a vintage Studebaker randomly plop himself into a  script about vampires, then you just aren’t living; screenwriting-wise. 
 Ensemble cast aside, A Return to Salem’s Lot makes it’s bacon on being an extremely well-balanced horror film; engorging the viewer in appropriate doses of eerie music, scares, good movie makeup, and a quickly developing plot. Director Larry Cohen is far from gunshy, racking up a healthy body count of vampires, humans, and drones (see the film) alike.At one point, a plethora of doped up cyber-punks (Think Bill Paxton in Terminator) are viciously murdered by seemingly elderly townsfolk. At another juncture, Andrew Duggan rips a vagrant’s face off! Look mom, one hand! 
 Another aspect of A Return to Salem’s Lot that garners my respect is a homage to the time-tested tradition of writing stock footage of the wilderness into a given horror plot. This goal is handily achieved through the creative writing of Michael Moriarty’s character as an anthropologist; Allowing for not only gratuitous scenes of tribal sacrifice, but also ample shots of the rainforest and wildlife, even if grossly overused. Hey, anything to add some gore and tribal mamories, right?

 I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this film would have been an 80’s horror-cheese smash hit if it were released under a different name. Maybe, “writer of the vampire bible” or “nazi killer vs. the geriatric vampire horde.” Literally anything would have sufficed. Maybe we would be giving this film the respect it deserves today, instead of taking the Stephen King route and filing suit to ensure that his name will never be associated with this work. Apples to Oranges.After all, A Return to Salem’s Lot has very little to do with its alleged predecessor. No character’s transcend the works, nor do the antagonists share any similarities, absent a slight resemblance, and vampirism. Maybe they are second cousins? Regardless of the title or classification, this film is very enjoyable; seek it out!

There. I did it. I Reviewed a horrible film that I love more than most Oscar nominees. *exhales* 

WTF = 21
W - 6 (not all that witty, but still disturbing at times)
T - 7 (great post-CGI effects when employed)
F -  8 (thoroughly enjoyable)