Humble, haunted and a pioneer, filmmaker Eduardo Sanchez seems to be one of the true pillars of the modern horror filmmaking era. Films like the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT truly scared people throughout every ounce of their being. ALTERED redefined the alien sub-genre of horror. V/H/S 2 reintroduced Ed to fans of a new generation of horror on a simple bike ride of the undead. EXISTS took his love of the Bigfoot to an all too close level of discomfort…
No matter the style of filmmaking, themes that arise from his storytelling or a masterful collaboration of technology and vision, Eduardo is held in true high regard as a “Master of Horror” for the last 15 years with legacy that will influence for generations. Now branching out into television with “Supernatural” and “From Dusk Till Dawn” along with collaboration on the new BLAIR WITCH project, his true masterpiece, and what I believe to be his most personal work, comes like a mounting scream deep in the countryside and on the canvas of abuse, addiction, dark psychosis and true dread that is the LOVELY MOLLY. Wanting to continue to understand this infamous journey that connects to so many, we had time before Eduardo’s next project came calling like the haunting tones in Molly’s childhood home.
We thank Eduardo Sanchez so much for his time as we welcomed him into THE NIGHT MARKET to journey into the darkness of LOVELY MOLLY in this two-part conversation. Part one gets insight into the dark heart of the film, inspiration and the things that go bump in Molly’s night here on TOM HOLLAND’S TERROR TIME.
Terror Time (Jay Kay): For me, this is your calling card film but it came much later on in your career. Where were you in your life when you came across the spark with Jamie Nash for LOVELY MOLLY?
Eduardo Sanchez: I was looking for some kind of inspiration because as soon as Jamie pitched it to me, I knew it was going to be my next film; or at least I hoped it would be. And his pitch was very simple – a woman videotapes herself going through a possession. I took that and ran with it.
TT: There are so many aspects that give LOVELY MOLLY that sense of a disturbing, realistic human story that is laid out on a canvas of a possession and ghost story. What were your conversations and films you suggested for maximum effect with the cast and crew pertaining to creating the disturbing reality within this multi-layered character piece?
ES: It was the first time that the DP John Rutland and I worked together, so I remember really digging in on what I wanted the film to look like, what I wanted it to feel like. I know we were going for a very realistic shooting style and we talked about a lot of films, but the only one that stands out as a true guide for us was BALLAST from 2008; a powerful narrative film with a curious documentary tone written and directed by Lance Hammer. A lot of inspiration came from that movie.
TT: Your work with LOVELY MOLLY is a long journey that has very powerful, shocking, tense and horrifying abrupt stops. Whether it is the bite scenes, the closet door, the deer, the betrayal, the murder, the final door opening among others, you conduct them like a symphony with the impact being like a razor across your skin. What influenced your visual style and conducting of the scene?
ES: I don’t know what got into me on this film – it was like I was exorcising something from within me. It was the toughest film on me emotionally. Getting the tone and rhythm of the script took a while and there was a lot of doubt (more than usual) about what I was writing.
We shot it in Hagerstown, Maryland, which is like 40 minutes from my house – so it was a pretty good shoot. It was the first film I’d done since BLAIR WITCH where I actually slept in my own bed during production. That’s a rarity in this business.
The post was a different story – I struggled a lot. I was editing at home but I was in quite an emotional hole. Just didn’t believe in myself very much. I was not a fun guy to be around. It took me a long while to get into it, but I started really digging Gretchen, Alexandra and Johnny in the footage. I started seeing all the little bits and pieces they gave me on the set and began to see my way through the big jigsaw puzzle that is editing a feature film. It took a while to edit but the film definitely grew up in front of me and it wasn’t long before I was pretty proud about what we had created.
TT: Talk about the contrast of the last tragic message on the video camera to open the film as well as Molly’s and Tim’s wedding day ceremony? Why was it needed to show her on the edge instead of just opening up happy?
ES: We just felt we needed something dramatic as that first shot. Horror films do this a lot – give us a glimpse at the horrid conclusion (or near conclusion) of the film. A preview within a movie to show us that all this nice stuff you’re about to see is not going to last…
Plus, Gretchen looked so crazy in that scene.
TT: How much does the idea that more than half of marriages fails and the past we hide from our spouses influence that opening scene?
ES: Not at all, I don’t think.
TT: Doors play a huge role in this film for symbolism, for fear factor, for visual presentation and to build the tension of what may or may not be there. Can you tell me why you and Jamie Nash put so much meaning into them?
ES: I don’t think it was something we did intentionally. But you’re right – a lot about doors in this one! I guess you have to use doors in a haunted house movie, which is partly what Molly is.
But that back door in particular was always, to me, the doorway for her father (or whatever it was representing her father) in and out of that house – and in and out of Molly as well. That’s where the first sign of trouble occurs – this fearful thing in the middle of the night. And it ends there, with Molly finally giving in fully to the powers that be (whether real or in her own mind) when she surrenders into the night and leaves that door wide open behind her.
TT: How important was the light, shadow and color to set the mood and cultivate tension of Molly’s journey?
ES: Crucial. And that was all John Rutland. It was our first collaboration and he pushed me toward the more cinematic version of what I had in my head – and I’m grateful that he did.
TT: How much of a challenge and how much planning went into the sound recording and production?
ES: A lot of planning. We had done the two previous films at Skywalker Sound but the Molly budget made going back there impossible, so we decided to try out a local place called Studio Unknown. Great find on our part – we’ve done the last three films with them and continue working with them on future stuff.
Kevin Hill and Matt Davies from SU worked their magic on this film from the very first meeting. We were all excited because we wanted to experiment and this project gave us the perfect opportunity to fuck around with all kinds of stuff. They just kept challenging me with new takes on my original vision. It’s what I want from any artist working on my films – to push my preconceptions but keep the train on the tracks somehow. They knew how to do that from the very beginning.
We made a lot of changes during the mix, and they were really patient with me as we worked our way through this film. That whole father (or whatever it was) singing to Molly was something that came up almost at the last minute. I was thinking about adding some kind of song or poem or something that the father would have sung to Molly as a child, and Kevin opened up the browser right there in the studio and found this old (and more importantly, rights-free) Irish song called Lovely Molly. It was so perfect that it kind of shocked us all. It was so perfect, in fact, that it became the name for our movie once Lionsgate decided to change the name of one of their horror films to THE POSSESSION right around that time, which was our original title. But THE POSSESSION was always a lame title to me anyway – I always knew we would change it. Little did I know we’d find it on the sound mixing stage.
TT: Whose idea was it record the father’s voice the way it was?
ES: It was the boys at SU who messed with it until it sounded like it was coming from hell.
Join us soon for Part II with Eduardo Sanchez
(Images from Google)
Interview Conducted by Jay Kay @HorrorHappensFF