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John’s Horror Corner: Butterfly Kisses (2018), an excellent pseudo-meta-mockumentary about a documentary about found footage about an urban legend.

May 1, 2019

MY CALL: This multi-layered metamovie mockumentary was unexpectedly good, thoughtfully written and sincerely acted. Overall a big win for me. More like this please! MORE MOVIES LIKE Butterfly Kisses: For more mockumentary-esque for docu-gone-wrong horror I’d strongly recommend The Last Exorcism (2010) and Grave Encounters (2011). I’d also suggest Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) and Scream 1-4 (1996-2011).

This film’s opening had me fearful I was in for another The Bye Bye Man (2017) as we view footage from a film student’s (Rachel Armiger) senior thesis. She fears she’ll soon be dead because she doesn’t know how much longer she can go “without blinking” as I roll my eyes and the video ends. Then we abruptly cut from this found footage to the more congenial docu-style introduction to our investigative filmmaker protagonist Gavin (Seth Adam Kallick). He finds a box labeled “don’t watch” and waxes cheekily “isn’t that how all good horror movies start?” And what’s on the tapes? The raw, unedited footage of the film student’s project.

In both the film student’s footage and the Gavin’s documentary about that footage, candidly presented witness and expert testimonials cultivate endearing asides explaining the back story, history and rules of The Peeping Tom—a deadly folklore entity. But the student’s recordings cannot be easily connected to many real people (e.g., the ophthalmologist), bringing into question the legitimacy of the film student’s work… and the subsequently Gavin’s work as well. So Gavin is now investigating whether the now-dead student was fabricating or telling the truth that she saw The Peeping Tom, as Gavin’s critics wonder the same of him.

During Gavin’s frustrating journey, this film explores what the notion of “found footage” really implies down to questions of testing validity or proof of manipulation (or lack thereof). In a Crash Palace Productions interview (The Last Knock podcast) with director Erik Kristopher Myers (Roulette), it was explained that this is to found footage movies what Scream (1996) was to the slasher subgenre. I couldn’t agree more!

For a film I hadn’t heard of by a director I didn’t know about, this turned out to be quite a treat. Everything struck me as thoughtfully executed. There is almost no blood, one or two jumpy moments, and briefly-viewed disturbing imagery… but it was all more than enough. This film works through the gravity of the filmmaker, the actors’ performances (especially Seth Adam Kallick) and the excellent direction and editing.

Found footage gets a bad rap because the filming style lends itself to sloppy filmmaking and abysmal budgets. And with little required effort, a few films with poor writing and direction behind them can paint the subgenre’s canvas with crap. Even if you’ve never heard of this film until now, you really ought to just go watch it regardless of your opinion on found footage. This film is the very life preserver that the oft-scoffed subgenre needed!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2019 2:11 pm

    I’m not usually a fan of found footage horror films, but this one sounds interesting, and has a more well thought out approach to this horror sub-genre.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      May 2, 2019 3:01 pm

      I’m actually a rather forgiving fan of found footage (especially the likes of The Last Exorcism, Willow Creek and Grave Encounters). But this really remains a standout. Please give it a shot (Amazon Prime). A lot of loving work went into this one, and it shows.

      • May 3, 2019 3:22 pm

        I liked the original Blair Witch film, that was good, but I’ve not seen many found footage films since that have impressed me much. The Last Exorcism was good as I recall though, and something called VHS was ok too. I’ll be sure to check it Butterfly Kisses, as your recommendations are always good. Cheers 🙂

    • John Leavengood permalink
      May 5, 2019 6:53 pm

      Well thanks! Hope you enjoy it and feel free to write back with your take on the film.

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  1. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix

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