Butterfly Kisses Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Gravitas Ventures
Written and directed by Erik Kristopher Myers
2018, 91 minutes, Not Rated
Released on October 23rd, 2012
Starring:Rachel Armiger as Sophia Crane
Reed Delisle as Feldman
Seth Adam Kallick as Gavin York
Eileen Del Valle as Amelia York
Eduardo Sanchez as Himself
Do you remember when the slasher movie began to wane in both popularity and quality? I do. The late ‘80s and early ‘90s were a rough time if you had a mask and a sharp instrument; there was just so much dreck out there. Every genre (or sub-genre) goes through down times. It’s all part of a natural cycle, maybe more so in horror.
You could argue that found footage is in that state right now. Sure, there’s the occasional gem (see The Fear Footage or Hell House, LLC), but it’s safe to say that it’s not what it used to be. Is that because it’s a ripe vein to mine for rookie filmmakers due to the relatively inexpensive nature of the production? Possibly. Is that vein simply tapped out? That remains to be seen, but there’s a new entry that takes it in a fresh, clever direction.
Butterfly Kisses is presented from the perspective of struggling documentary filmmaker Gavin York (Seth Adam Kallick). He’s literally found footage on old DV tapes in the basement of his in-law’s home. They’re from the senior project of a film-school student named Sophia Crane (Rachel Armiger). She and her more experienced cameraman, Feldman (Reed Delisle), are making a documentary about a local Maryland boogeyman known as Peeping Tom (a.k.a. The Blink Man a.k.a. Mr. Blink). Legend has it that if you go to the Ilchester train tunnel at midnight and don’t blink for an entire hour he will appear at the other end, getting closer and closer until he’s right there. After that, well…you get the idea. Gavin is blown away by what he sees on the cache of unfinished work and is making it into a documentary of his own. What he uncovers on his journey into the dark is unexpected, catastrophic, and deadly. You’ll see for yourself.
Butterfly Kisses is a documentary inside a documentary inside a documentary…Butterfly Kisses is a found footage horror film…Butterfly Kisses is an exercise in meta-filmmaking. There’s no shortage of ambition here. Director Erik Kristopher Myers (Roulette) has made a film that’s difficult to review; I don’t want to give anything away. It does for the found footage genre what Scream did for slasher films.
Yes, I said that with a straight face.
The writing and direction are clever and artful, lean and mean without allowing any scene or plot-point to drag out too long. Even in the places where you might have an issue with disconnection (like jumping back and forth between 2004 and 2015) it runs smoothly thanks to the continuity of the narrative. The performances are believable, with Gavin York being particularly distasteful in a nearly sympathetic way. He’s the centerpiece as his life falls apart.
And there’s the subtext: the desire and passion of the filmmaker. It’s consuming him to the point where he doesn’t realize the danger he’s in, and by the time he does realize, he doesn’t care. It’s a struggle that all artists face, whether you’re a writer, painter, or filmmaker – you must be obsessed to get the job done. Peeping Tom becomes the perfect metaphor because you can’t take your eyes off the prize if you expect to see your vision realized.
Deeper meaning aside, Butterfly Kisses works very effectively as straight found-footage horror. The background is used in the best possible sense to keep your eyes constantly on the move. As the film goes on, you become more unsettled. The payoff comes in that lovely feeling of hairs beginning to stand up. The tension build is nastily organic.
Found footage itself is scathingly deconstructed and analyzed here. Questions are asked that virtually everyone has asked of these types of movies, and the answers aren’t always comfortable (especially for poor Gavin). The setup and the premise of his project (and, by proxy, the genre itself) and deconstructed and then reconstructed. It’s rather ingenious.
The look of Peeping Tom isn’t fiercely original, but in this day and age it seems that freaky assholes in top hats that move in jerky fashion and tilt their heads slowly are all the rage. It’s forgivable, though, as the overall image fits the character well enough. It’s easy to see him becoming a new face in horror if this movie is seen and appreciated properly. Besides, the anticipation of him and the feeling of impending doom fills the mind with more horror than the monster in the top hat and coat ever could.
Therein lies the beauty of Butterfly Kisses: the mind really is the ultimate monster, and the camera doesn’t lie.
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