"Lovely Molly," the horrific tale of a woman either demonically possessed or tragically insane, may be the film that makes Eduardo Sanchez someone other than one of the guys responsible for 1999's "The Blair Witch Project."
Which would be fine with the Maryland-raised filmmaker, whose movie gets its local premiere tonight to cap the first day of the 14th Maryland Film Festival.
"I love being one of the guys that did 'Blair Witch,' but I'm really proud of 'Lovely Molly,'" Sanchez, 44, said about the film he shot last fall in and around Hagerstown. "Regardless of how it does in the theaters, I think it's going to get a huge following on video. There are going to be a lot of people who really love it."
Sanchez — whose last film, "Seventh Moon," was shown at the festival in 2009 — spoke over the phone this week from Austin, Texas, where's he's finishing work on another movie. That commitment will keep him from being in Baltimore for tonight's screening; actors Gretchen Lodge, who plays Molly, and Alexandra Holden, who plays her sister, Hannah, will host in his stead. Though he'll be 1,600 miles away, Sanchez made it clear his heart will be in Baltimore.
There's an awful lot of you in "Molly," since you directed, edited and co-wrote it. Is there more of you in this film than in any of your others?
"Molly" just completely killed me, emotionally. Looking back on it, I did enjoy some of it. But it's just a lot of pressure. Filmmaking is so collaborative; it's very rare that you have such a singular vision, as I had with "Molly." But this movie was just kind of a weird thing. When me and [writing partner Jamie Nash] came up with it, it was basically, "What if somebody videotaped themselves going through a possession?" I just took that idea and kinda went crazy.
I just wanted to not pull any punches, you know? I've been wanting to make kind of an "Exorcist"-type film for a long time, since I saw "The Exorcist" when I was a kid. I always imagined that it was going to be more "Exorcist" — possession, you know, priests and stuff like that. This movie was supposed to head that way. But it kinda took a different road in my head.
What is it about the horror genre that keeps you coming back?
If you had asked me in film school if I was going to be making horror films, I would have said, "No, absolutely not, I'm not going to be making horror films." Then "Blair Witch" made some money, it got me where I'm at. I wouldn't say I'm stuck, but I'm in this genre. And I think I'm getting better each film.
What is clear to me about horror is it's the most flexible genre there is. There's everything from action to psychological to bloody, violent movies. There's comedy, every kind of subgenre imaginable, in horror. And it kind of lets me play with other things that I've been messing with, lets me flex my filmmaking muscles in other ways. I really enjoy that.
Tell us a little about this next film you're working on.
It's called "Exists." It's a Bigfoot movie. I've been trying to make a Bigfoot movie since I was 16 years old, and I finally got a chance to do it. It tries to bring Bigfoot back into the scary realm … and I think we're doing it. It's coming out nice. I'm very excited about it. It's a really creepy film.
Any news on a possible "Blair Witch" sequel?
We are talking to Lionsgate, which owns "Blair Witch." All I've been able to say for the last two or three years is that we've been talking to them. Things are progressing. But at the same time, I have no idea what's going to happen with it. [Co-writer and co-director Daniel Myrick] and I … are very anxious to do another "Blair Witch" movie, but it's completely out of our hands. We just try to cooperate as best we can and hope that Lionsgate comes to us with a greenlit script soon.
How was it, shooting in Hagerstown?
It was great, man. Right now, I'm shooting near Austin, Texas. I like Austin, it's a great town. But I miss Maryland, I miss my family. It was just a great experience to be able to shoot in the area that I grew up in and come home every night to my family, even if it was just for a few hours.
It's just the Maryland vibe, man. Everybody from the film commission, the Maryland Film Festival — I just feel so at home there. I'm happy to see that things are happening there. The Maryland Film Festival gets bigger every year and better every year. I wish I could shoot all my films in Maryland.