Genre: Horror/Found Footage
Directed by: Erik Kristopher Myers
Run time: 91 minutes
The Lowdown: I’m becoming more and more convinced that 2018 will be remembered, as far as genre cinema, as the year that Found Footage finally shed its reputation for nausea-inducing, hand-held footage and tired jump-scare tropes and made a legitimate stab for respectability, thanks to a series of unexpectedly solid films by directors who not only broke out of the box but thoroughly destroyed the tired and musty mold first formed by The Blair Witch Project in 1999.
Case in point, Butterfly Kisses, the second film by writer-director Erik Kristopher Myers, which scared us silly with its introduction of a unique and original movie monster, The Peeping Tom.
The Peeping Tom, also called the Blink Man, is actually a (fictitious) urban legend that becomes the focal point of a young woman named Sophia’s film project. As Butterfly Kisses opens, we meet Sophia sitting in her room in front of a camera, trying desperately not to blink. Behind her on the wall are scraps of paper, news clippings and a seriously creepy outline of a menacing black figure that I kept expecting to move or grab her a la The Babadook.
As it turns out, Sophia and a friend believe they were successful in capturing The Peeping Tom on film after they stood out in front of a railroad trestle tunnel and stared into the darkness for a full hour without blinking. Legend has it that anyone who is successful in doing so will see Peeping Tom appear.
There’s a catch, of course. Once you see him, you can never un-see him, and when you see him, if you blink, the closer he advances until finally he’s so close that his eyelashes tickle your face, hence the title of the film.
How is it that viewers are seeing this footage?
Well, Butterfly Kisses, it turns out, is actually presented as a documentary made by a filmmaker named Gavin York, who we learn discovered a hidden box at his in-law’s house after they moved in. The box was marked Don’t Watch, so of course York did exactly the opposite.
When he opened the box he found dozens of tapes hidden by Sophia, which he decided to edit together in chronological order. Thus begins the film-within-a-film at the core of Butterfly Kisses.
Myers does a really good job maintaining suspense throughout, and there are several sequences, such as when York stumbles upon an idea to sidestep the whole ‘not blink for an hour’ criteria, that will make you pull your feet up off the floor as you curl tighter into the couch.
Is it wholly original? No, not at all. There has been a slew of similar films released of late, including The Slender Man; and, though creepy cool, The Peeping Tom is very reminiscent of the aforementioned Babadook, which isn’t necessarily a criticism.
Still, Butterfly Kisses is thoroughly engaging and it is damn effective in doing its job, which is to chill you to the core.
Myers goes full meta in the film’s third act. After focusing on “expert” opinions about the authenticity of Sophia’s footage as well as York’s footage, Butterfly Kisses becomes a sort of In Search Of…- style documentary when York disappears along with the box of tapes. A new crew decides to continue his work after they receive a mysterious package from York, which includes a key to a roadside motel room, which they of course investigate and make a startling discovery.
The crew also discovers that York had rigged the room with multiple cameras, but the memory cards from each camera are missing.
As a result, unlike Sophia’s tapes, which are interspersed throughout Butterfly Kisses, viewers never get to see the contents of the footage shot by York in the motel room where he tried to hide out and continue researching The Peeping Tom.
That feels almost like a cheat, even though I understand the decision to keep a part of the story a mystery.
Butterfly Kisses ends where it began, with Sophia, in her room, taking extreme measures to keep the Blink Man at bay. Personally, after such a strong narrative pull, and a number of solid subplots that added depth to Myers’ film, the ending felt incomplete. Yes, it leaves you wanting more, but the knowledge that nothing more is coming is frustrating.
If anything, I kept waiting and hoping for the creepy-as-eff drawing of The Peeping Tom on Sophia’s wall to come to life, to peel away from the solid structure and suddenly hover over her while she spoke to the camera one last time. Alas, that never happened.
Regardless, it’s impossible for me not to recommend Butterfly Kisses.
Fans of found-footage horror movies should eat it up. Fans of creepy urban legends will too. Specifically, the film, taken as a whole, bodes extremely well for Myers’ future as a director and a storyteller.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – No.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Minimal.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – The Peeping Tom
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Fractured (Jump Start Productions, 80 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Fractured, the latest thriller from director Jamie Patterson (2017’s excellent Caught), is an excellent example of how to build tension and execute a masterful twist without detracting from the viewing experience.
The film, which clocks in at a blink-and-you’ll-miss 80 minutes, meticulously builds its foundation by focusing on Rebecca (April Pearson) and Michael (Karl Davies), two twenty-something lovers on a nighttime drive to a remote cottage in the English countryside.
Their trip is marked by a series of weird encounters, including a creepy petrol station attendant, before they reach their destination. It’s clear that something is up with the couple – maybe they’re cheating together or trying to reconnect after a breakup – but their chemistry is undeniable. They fix a meal, indulge in wine and eventually retire upstairs for some rugged and robust bedroom BDSM.
Patterson patiently waits until he has sufficiently lulled his audience into a sense of (dis)quiet comfort to unleash an unexpected bloody demise, which allows him to launch into the second half of Fractured, which is essentially the same film told from an entirely different perspective with a wallop of a flashback twist that changes everything.
Fractured has been racking up awards on its festival run, and it’s easy to see why. This is a seriously good little chiller that you can find available now on most video streaming platforms. BVB highly recommends you seek it out.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Scorpion King: Book of Souls
Deadbeat at Dawn
Creepshow: Collector’s Edition
Prehysteria: Special Edition
Get Shorty: Collector’s Edition
Elena Ferrante on Film: The Days of Abandonment/Troubling Love
Distant Voices, Still Lives
Now on Video-on-Demand:
Blessed are the Children (Wild Eye Releasing, 98 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Blessed Are the Children, a new, what-the-eff abortion thriller from director/co-writer Chris Moore, delivers the goods with a super unnerving opening that finds a nurse from a women’s clinic being menaced by a trio of pro-life activists wearing baby masks.
From there, however, the film just falls apart once it turns its focus to Traci Patterson (Kaley Ball), a young woman with low self-esteem who finds herself in a loveless tryst with a would-be polygamist while she tries to extricate herself from an abusive spouse.
Traci lives with her controlling, C-U-Next-Tuesday mother, who refuses to believe that her daughter’s significant other is abusive. Worse, her mom finds her positive pregnancy test and just rips into her daughter, berating her.
When Traci visits a women’s clinic to get an abortion, the asshole polygamist is inexplicably there, watching and stalking her. Guess who else is there? The same baby-masked pro-lifers, who proceed to follow Traci home.
Before long, the body count is rising, including a particularly brutal kill where one male character gets stabbed repeatedly in the penis. (I wish I was kidding)
Nothing much makes sense in Blessed Are the Children. Is it a pro-life horror slasher? Is it a supernatural thriller about unborn fetuses that must be protected? Who the hell are these guys in baby masks, and why doesn’t anyone else see them?
If you last long enough through the film to uncover any of these answers, please feel free to contact us to share the outcome. We only made it to the midway mark before hitting eject.
Not to be Overlooked:
Robin Williams: Comic Genius (Time-Life, 50+ hours, Unrated, DVD): When Robin Williams took his own life in August 2014, the world lost one of its most fiercely original and downright hysterical voices. Though opinions may differ on the quality of his extensive film oeuvre, few can argue at Williams’ mastery of the stage throughout his stand-up career.
The wonderful new boxed collection, Robin Williams: Comic Genius, wisely focuses on that portion of his life, beginning in the mid-1970’s and continuing through the 2018 HBO documentary, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, which is included on one of the 22 discs in its entirety.
Also included are five, full-length HBO comedy specials spanning 31 years; two live performances from 2007 and 2012; a collection of Williams’ appearances on late-night talk shows from Johnny Carson to Graham Norton; raw, previously unreleased stand-up footage; 11 episodes of Mork & Mindy; a 90-minute Inside the Actor’s Studio special; and a beautiful, 24-page memory book with photos, press materials and personal notes from different tours penned by Williams himself.
In all, the collection includes more than 50 hours of total content with more than 100 performances to keep fans laughing (and crying) at the genius he was (and the beautiful light we all lost).