BUTTERFLY KISSES (2018)
Directed by Erik Kristopher Myers
Written by Erik Kristopher Myers
Starring Seth Adam Kallick, Rachel Armiger, Erik Kristopher Myers, Eileen del Valle, Reed DeLisle, Jaime Horrigan, Janise Whelan, Kelsey June Swann, Sterritt David, Eve Young, Kenny Johnson, Mike Jones, Matt Lake, Robin Nicolai, Cory Okouchi, Carl Porter, Andy Wardlaw, Gavin York, & Eduardo Sanchez as Eduardo Sanchez!
Find out more about this film here!
This found footager goes the extra mile and that is definitely appreciated by this reviewer. While the film starts out rather rocky, it soon becomes utterly engrossing both as a thriller about obsession and urban myth and a satirical comedy about the filmmaking process itself. If you have an interest in either categories, you’re going to find BUTTERFLY KISSES as fun as I did.
Let’s see how this one stacks up against my Found Footage Questionnaire.
What’s the story?
When aspiring filmmaker Gavin York (Seth Adam Kallick) finds a box full of videos, he becomes obsessed with the urban myth of the Peeping Tom who appears after staring down a local tunnel for an hour without blinking. After accomplishing this task, the Peeping Tom slowly gets closer to you the more you blink until he is right upon you and then basically, you’re fucked. Gavin is determined to find out if these tapes are a hoax put on by a pair of college film students or is a real urban monster. Soon inspiration turns to obsession and things get meta when the crew filming Gavin’s documentary searches for the truth and becomes wrapped up in the Peeping Tom curse as well. It’s a faux documentary trying to figure out if a found footage film is fact or fake. Got it?
Are the actors believably acting like they aren’t acting?
When BUTTERFLY KISSES begins, we focus on the two students in the found footage and I must admit, those moments were some of the weakest acting moments in the film. Actress Rachel Armiger plays Sophia, the eager film student dedicated to proving the Peeping Tom myth is true. Armiger does a decent job of playing the stereotype of the film student who amps the melodrama and loves being on camera. In many ways, I feel the same way about her that I did about Heather Donahue. It’s just that type of dramatic person who is hard to like. In the opening moments, it was tough to form a bond with the film because she was over-acting so much and there was no lead in to this scene, so I found the desperation to be out of context. Once context is made, it is much more digestible when the scene is repeated later. Gavin (Kallick) varies from being a likable doof to a complete moron and while he does a decent job, it was tough liking him as well. That may have been a point, but it makes it hard when there’s a lack of people to attach investment to. The rest of the cast do fine trying not to act and the clever and well placed cameo by Eduardo Sanchez is an awesome meta touch that will cause lots of giggles for found footage fanboys.
Is there an up-nose BLAIR WITCH style confessional or a [REC] drag-away from the camera?
No cliched drag-away, thank god. There are a couple of confessional scenes, but none played over the top and they go by quick. This film is as much about the obsession with making a movie and the type of narcissistic personality one must have to do it, so a self-centered monologue is almost necessary to the story.
Does this actually feel like it is authentically found and untouched by additional production such as an omniscient editor making multiple cuts or an unseen orchestra providing music?
Yes, though I think the film added some very subtle tones to signify key scenes, they were very low and almost subliminal. None of it distracted me or took me out of the movie. The film clearly shifts from the found footage and the documentary being filmed without too many cheats like purposefully dropped cameras or camera angles appearing from nowhere to flesh out a scene. When the documentary crew talks with some film experts on the subject of found footage, I had to laugh at the criticisms they made about the footage found in the film, pointing out that the camera lingers just long enough to show the Peeping Tom in the distance. Obviously, these guys haven’t seen the amount of shoddy found footagers I have as these sins are minimal here.
Is there a valid reason the camera is not dropped and the filmmakers keep filming instead of getting the hell out of there?
The desire to make a documentary (since Gavin and the crew have invested so much money into it) and the dedication of the students to finish their film school assignment are the motivations that keep the camera rolling and valid motivations at that.
Is the lead in too long and the payoff too short?
The constant switch between found footage and the documentary styles keeps the momentum moving. I was invested the whole time as the struggle to actually make the documentary was just as intriguing to me as the threat of the Peeping Tom. Seeing Gavin attempt to find allies and partners to help him on his quest really does capture that uncontrollable urge to create and the frustration when you hit so many walls while trying to do so. As an appreciator of the process of filmmaking and the creative process itself, that struggle was more interesting for me than the Peeping Tom.
The ending didn’t seem rushed. It was sudden and leaves a lot unexplained, but still, the final moments bring quite a few solid scares and one big jump scare that I’m sure will alarm all who watch.
Is it worth checking out? Does it offer anything worthwhile to the subgenre?
What sets BUTTERFLY KISSES apart from the rest is twofold. One, the film does a fantastic job of supplying the metacommentary of the trials and tribulations of making a movie. Gavin may not be the sharpest, but he does a good job of really making the struggle seem real and gives a backbone to this film that speaks volumes about the passion of the filmmaker. The film also did the extra work many films don’t do. While putting the film together, the filmmakers hit the urban myth message boards acting as if the Peeping Tom myth was real folklore. Turns out the Peeping Tom even made it in an urban myths book. To me, that type of extra oomph and heavy lifting should be commended. While it didn’t create a cultural phenomenon like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, it achieved some validity in the real world in a smaller sense and that’s a win in my book.
I’d recommend BUTTERFLY KISSES to those viewers who like films about making films. This is a film about the long hard road to create and how one that urge can often the one’s downfall. The Peeping Tom is decently scary, though it looks a little too much like the Babadook. But what held my attention most was the birth, life, and death of one man’s dreams of being a filmmaker.