In the horror thriller Lovely Molly, a happy newlywed named Molly (Gretchen Lodge) returns to her long-abandoned family home with her new husband (Johnny Lewis), only to find frightful reminders of a nightmarish childhood. Not long after arriving, she begins a descent into an evil that blurs the lines between psychosis and possession, threatening everyone she comes into contact with.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, director Eduardo Sanchez talked about how the idea for the film came about, the importance of not clearly defining whether Molly is disturbed or possessed, working in such a creepy house, and finding the perfect actress to carry such an intense and emotional role. He also talked about finally getting to fulfill his dream of making a Bigfoot movie (it’s called Exists), making his first found footage movie since The Blair Witch Project, and his desire to do a weird and wacky comedy. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Collider: How did Lovely Molly come about?
EDUARDO SANCHEZ: I’ve been wanting to do an exorcist or possession style movie, ever since I was a little kid and watched The Exorcist. I was probably 10 years old, and it’s always fascinated me. I think The Exorcist is probably the scariest movie ever made, and the making of it always fascinated me, and the curse and all the stuff that happened on the set. To me, it seemed that there was something that they caught on that movie. If there’s something paranormal in the world, it was around that movie. It just feels like this evil movie. I was raised Catholic. Not strict Catholic, but I was raised Catholic. I definitely veered away from Catholicism, but I still have these beliefs that there’s good in the world and evil in the world. So, it was something that always fascinated me, but I was always afraid of it. There was always this side of me that thought, if you get into this, bad things are going to happen because you attract that kind of energy. With this, I guess I threw caution to the wind. I was like, “You know, I’m just gonna do this movie. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time.”
What was the writing process like for this?
SANCHEZ: My writing partner, Jamie Nash, came up with a triggering idea. He said, “Hey, what if we write a movie about somebody who videotapes themselves going through a possession?” And I was like, “Well, that’s a really cool idea!” Usually, the way our partnership works is that we both come up with ideas, but he’s a real writer. He can knock out a script in a week. I’m not that kind of writer. I need to take my time. I don’t have that super-human capability that the real writers have. But, for some reason, I just got into this story and it just started taking me over and possessing me, in some way. It just flowed out of me, and the rhythm of it flowed out of me. I didn’t where that rhythm was coming from. It has a weird structure. So, I wrote it, but I didn’t know what it is. I was like, “I don’t know what I’ve done here,” but I sent it to a couple of my producers and they really liked it. I hadn’t finished it yet, so they were like, “You’ve gotta finish it. It’s really great! It has a really cool feeling to it.” So, I finished it. It was a weird thing because, most of the time, Jamie does most of the writing and I just give ideas and do clean-up work, but it was the other way around here. I mostly did all the writing, and he came in and did a total clean-up pass. It was something that was inside of me. I don’t know where it came from. I did a little bit of research, as far as substance abuse and psychosis, but I didn’t really do a crazy amount of research either. It was something where I was interested in the idea of going through this, but having few resources. I was interested in how people with no health insurance would go through a possession. How do they deal with demonic possession? I was definitely inspired, but I don’t know where it came from. It wasn’t anything that I had pulled from my past. It was just one of those things.
Was it important to you to not clearly define whether Molly is disturbed or possessed?
SANCHEZ: Yeah, it was. I’ve been wanting to make this movie about demonic possession for a long time, and I really thought it was going to be more like The Exorcist, where the priest was going to come in and save the day, or at least try to save the day. I was actually going to do a woman exorcist who came in to try to help. I got to the point, at the end of the script, where I was like, “I don’t have an exorcist scene in there.” And then, I realized that I didn’t really know if there was the need for an exorcism because it might be something else. It was important to me to lay just enough clues to give people an idea of what it was, but not give anything definitive, one way or the other. There is some stuff in there that you can’t really explain, but at the same time, most of the stuff that happens to her could just be in her own head. It was important to me to keep that line going, and keep the ambiguity of that going. I wanted it to be more of a mystery than most movies like this. I definitely wanted it to be something that you walked out of and had to go home and think about before you made up your mind.
In movies like this, that are set in creepy old houses, there are always stories about strange things that happen on set. Did this house feel that way?
SANCHEZ: It wasn’t normal. Nothing definitive really happened to me, but some things did happen to other people on the crew. There were some people that felt like they were shoved. There were other people that felt like they were touched by something or somebody. There were a few people who wouldn’t even say what happened to them. They just won’t even talk about it. But, I think the house was built in the late 1700’s, so obviously there’s a lot of history there. It was also in the middle of nowhere, on 100 acres. It’s really isolated. It’s rare to find a house that’s old and historic, and still very isolated like that. It was in this pocket of time. You could imagine looking around and saying, “This is pretty much the way it looked, 100 years ago.” It was a very strange feeling. The scene in the attic, where she goes up and sees the photo album with her family photos in it, was only supposed to take an hour. It’s not that big a scene. It was emotional for Gretchen [Lodge], but it wasn’t that big a deal. And for some reason, that attic scene took five hours to shoot. We kept blowing lights and it was hot, but there was something else up there. There was this really uncomfortable feeling up there, and a lot of people didn’t want to go up there. It was like pulling teeth. And then, the week after that, we had a psychic come out to the house just to do a reading and see what was going on, and she told us that there was definitely something there and it lived up in the attic. It wasn’t malevolent, but it was mad at us because we didn’t ask its permission to come into the house to film a movie. I think she said its name was David. And then, as part of the transmedia for the web stuff we did, we actually had a ghost hunting team come out and do a full investigation. They recorded some things, and the creepiest thing they did was pick up a picture that definitely looks like a little girl, staring out one of the windows in the back of the house. The house had so much history and, like a lot of old houses, it had been a hospital during the Civil War, so there was a lot of suffering and a lot of people died there. It definitely had a weird energy. The weirdest thing that happened to me was that, after we wrapped, I went with the sound team to do some recordings in the house for the sound. I didn’t notice anything weird. I barely even went into the house, so as not to make noise inside the house. I just went with them to keep them company. But, when I went home, I found two or three slashes on my back. It wasn’t painful, but it looked like somebody with two or three fingers had slashed my back. It wasn’t even a slash. It was under the skin, like a bruise that was almost like a hickey on my back. My wife noticed it and was like, “What have you been doing?” It didn’t even hurt the skin. It was something underneath. I don’t know what that was, but I had visited the house that day. It was definitely creepy. I had the chance to stay out there at night, and I was like, “I’m not going to stay out here at night! I’m not that kind of dude.”
When essentially the entire weight of the film lies on the shoulders of your lead actress, what were you looking for, for the role? Was there something about Gretchen Lodge specifically that led you to believe she could do this, or did you just get a feeling when you saw her audition?
SANCHEZ: Yeah, it was just a feeling. It was similar to the way I felt about Heather [Donahue], when we auditioned her for The Blair Witch Project. We did open calls in New York and had a lot of people come in. Obviously, you get a lot of really great people and you get a lot of people who aren’t very good, but we definitely saw a lot of people. There are a lot of actors in New York, and a lot of really good actors in New York. Gretchen came in and just completely overwhelmed me. It was a scene that I had seen a few dozen times that day, performed by other actresses. It was a monologue that I had written, but she still had transported me to this place. I was completely transfixed by her. Afterwards, I was like, “Wow, that was pretty amazing!” You know, when you see things like that. And there was something about her that made me trust her. There’s a lot of nudity in the movie and there’s some sex, and this is the kind of movie where it was very important for it to be raw. I couldn’t have had her in a bra, having sex. She was like an animal, at certain points in the movie. This is the first time I’ve actually ever done anything like this, but talking to other directors, they said, “If you have nudity or serious sex in the movie, most of the time, you ask the actress to disrobe in front of you, in the callback. If she can’t do it in front of you in the audition process, then you’re probably going to have problems with her on set.” I never did that with Gretchen. It got to the point where I was going to offer her the role, but I hadn’t really done that test with her. I was like, “What am I going to do, go up to New York for the sole purpose of having her disrobe in front of me?” So, I called her and said, “I totally trust you.” There was just something about her. She never flinched. She was always like, “I know exactly what I have to do, and I know it’s going to be uncomfortable sometimes, but it’s just the kind of thing it is.” She definitely proved herself. She trusted me, and I trusted her. She knew that I wasn’t trying to exploit her. I was just trying to tell the best story possible. So much of directing is just good casting, and I couldn’t agree more, with everybody that came out and worked for me on this movie. Everybody put everything into the roles, and I’m really happy with the performances in the film.
What’s next for you?
SANCHEZ: I just wrapped a movie. I never really say this about any of my movies when I wrap because you just never know, but I think this next movie is going to be big. It’s a Bigfoot movie, and I’ve been trying to make a Bigfoot movie since I was 16 years old. This is the third Bigfoot script that I’ve been involved with and helped write. It’s called Exists, and we just wrapped in Austin, Texas. I’ve tried to do some Bigfoot movies with the studios, and the studios were always very hesitant because nobody knows if Bigfoot stuff will work. Part of what makes it fun is the idea of, “Is this going to work?” But, one of our assistant editors cut a quick trailer for it, as we were shooting it, and it looks really, really great. It seems like I may have made the film that I’ve been waiting to watch, since I was a teenager. Who the hell knows, if it will be any good at all, but right now, I’m feeling really optimistic about it. I’m really excited about it.
Do you know what you’ll be doing after that?
SANCHEZ: I don’t know. I’m going to take the summer off and maybe write a little bit, and then I have some other scripts that I’m working on. Right now, I’m working on the post for the Bigfoot movie, and then I’ll see what happens after that.
Is Exists done with found footage?
SANCHEZ: Yes, it’s actually the first found footage movie that I’ve done since Blair Witch. It’s totally found footage. I was going to use a similar technique to Lovely Molly, where I mixed them, but the closer I got to shooting it, it just started making more sense to do it the other way. Everything that I’ve seen Bigfoot in is all found footage. It’s always people with a video camera or a film camera, capturing him, so that seemed to be the right way to film the movie. I’m very happy I did it because it helped us out with production and it also gives it a real creepy vibe that would have been hard to get, if I had shot it normally. I’m happy with it. We spent a lot of money on the suit. WETA, the guys who did The Lord of the Rings, designed the suit, and Spectral Motion, who are Academy Award nominated effects guys, built the suit. Brian Steele was the guy in the suit, and he’s a famous creature guy. It was pretty amazing. I also really enjoyed shooting in Texas. I’m looking forward to that. I haven’t looked forward to one of my movies this much in a long time, probably since film school., so I’m pretty excited about it. You never know what you have, but it feels like we have something special, so I’m hoping and keeping my fingers crossed.
With so many people who started using the found footage style of filmmaking, after the success of The Blair Witch Project, were there any that you felt brought something new and exciting to the genre?
SANCHEZ: Since I’m the Blair Witch guy, I get sent a lot of found footage movies and it’s difficult to do it right. That’s why I have to hand it to the guys that did Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield and Rec. There are a lot of good films. As far as originality, I think every single one of them bring something new. Some of them definitely pushed the boundaries of originality, as far as taking a lot of stuff from Blair Witch and other found footage movies, but there are good ones and I’m inspired by that. Dan [Myrick] and I didn’t originate that, but we definitely popularized it and it’s something to be proud of. The only thing that bothers me is that they’re making so much money and I don’t get any of it. It’s probably how George Romero feels when zombie movies come out and make a ton of money and he makes nothing. But, at the same time, I’m glad it’s still going.
Aside from finally getting to do a Bigfoot movie, do you have a dream project that you’re hoping to get to do, that would totally surprise people?
SANCHEZ: Eventually, I’m going to do a really crazy comedy. People that know me, for any extended period of time, are always like, “Man, you’ve gotta do a comedy!” It’s something that my partner, Dan, and I tried to do after Blair Witch, but it didn’t work out. There’s still a weird, wacky-ass comedy in me somewhere and, eventually, I will get to it. There is actually a script that I have that my writing partner, Jamie, wrote, called Labor Day, and it’s a horror-comedy. I’m hoping to do that one soon because I definitely need to get away from all this dark stuff. The Bigfoot movie is not quite as dark as Lovely Molly. It’s definitely not such a super-serious movies, but horror movies are tough sometimes because there’s so much dark stuff and so much death. I’d like to just do something crazy and wacky, so hopefully I can do that soon. I also have an $80 million Bigfoot movie that I wrote years ago, and if Exists does anything, I hope it gives me the opportunity to make that movie because it’s a really cool movie. It’s a period piece that’s my love letter to Sasquatch. But, I never thought I’d be making horror movies, when I was in film school. Right now, my career has been as much of a surprise to me as anyone else. Hopefully, I’ll be able to branch out and do some other stuff, but the great thing about horror is that there’s so many different kinds of horror movies. There are horror comedies and horror action movies. The genre really does run the gamut, as far as what kinds of movies you can make. When people say, “Do you feel frustrated that you’re stuck in horror movies?,” I feel like I might be stuck, but it’s not a bad place to be stuck in, if I have to be stuck in a genre. It definitely lets you do a bunch of different things that other genres just don’t have the flexibility for.