The camera doesn't lie
Welcome to Knockout Horror. Today we are reviewing the 2018 found footage horror movie Butterfly Kisses. So, why am I going all the way back to 2018 rather than reviewing current movies? Well, horror at the moment is a bit pants and finding newer stuff in the UK is a pain. I want to offer something a bit different here. With that in mind, I decided to work on a few themes. One of which has been Social media horror and another is Found Footage.
I always feel it necessary to spend a bit of time talking about this sub-genre. The sheer mention of Found Footage is enough to turn a lot of people instantly flaccid. It’s not just the cheap and, often, quite naff nature of the movies. It is the sheer oversaturation of Found Footage over the years. There is just so much of it.
In my recent review of Taiwanese Found Footage horror Incantation. I mentioned how a lot of people seem to think that Found Footage is pretty much dead. The reality is, however, that it is very much alive and well. Along with the recent release of the aforementioned Incantation. We have also had Ghost Webcam, Deadstream and V/H/S 99 all hitting the market in the last year. And that is without mentioning Found Footage style hits. For example, Skinamarink and Out There Halloween Mega Tape.
It’s clear that genre is doing okay, regardless of how it may seem. With the recent reigniting of interest in movies like Megan is Missing. It’s hard to imagine filmmakers not going back to the well a few times in the near future. Found Footage has always been very appealing to people with limited budgets. With the viral popularity of certain movies from the genre on TikTok, and the like. I predict we will see more movies from the genre in the near future.
The thing with found footage, as well. Is that you can, actually, tell any type of horror story through the medium. Found Footage tales are not limited to spooky things happening in the woods. They can be religious horrors. Real life stalking or, simply, tales about weirdos and serial killers. Whether it is a presentation style you enjoy or not. It doesn’t look like it will be going anywhere soon. Something that I am actually pretty pleased about. It’s always been one of my guilty pleasures.
With that in mind. I have been going back through some of the better Found Footage movies from the past 20 years. I just published a list that you can go check out. 25 Found Footage Horror Movies You May Have Missed. Today’s movie features on it and is one of the better movies from this genre.
So I am not sure if everyone knows what Butterfly Kisses are? It’s basically the term for someone fluttering their eyelashes on your cheek. Cute, right? Well, not in the case of the movie we are looking at today. The butterfly kisses in this case are those of a malicious folk lore legend. Peeping Tom is a supernatural entity that lives at the end of a tunnel in an American town.
Legend says that staring into the tunnel without blinking for one hour will summon him. From then on, the Flimmern Geist, or Flicker Spirit, will get closer every time you blink. Eventually, he will be so close he will give you butterfly kisses before scaring you to death. Pretty terrifying to be fair.
Butterfly Kisses follows the story of director Gavin (Seth Adam Kallick). Gavin’s family recently purchased a property and found some tapes in the basement. The tapes depict the filming of a documentary by a pair of students. The students believe they have captured the sinister Peeping Tom on camera. The only problem is, they went missing shortly after. Gavin is now determined to prove that the tapes are real. The only question is. To what lengths is he willing to go?
Butterfly Kisses plays out like a Mockumentary. Gavin has hired a team to follow his journey. Documenting his attempts to prove the authenticity of these tapes. The movie starts off incredibly strong. The premise alone had me drawn in. The idea of Peeping Tom is genuinely unsettling. The lore behind the character is tremendously well crafted, as well. In fact, it is so well crafted that an author featured it in her book about Maryland legends. Director Erik Myers felt he had to contact the author to clear things up. Confirming to her that it was a legend developed by him for a horror movie. The author was so impressed that she ended up leaving it in her book. How many films can boast a claim like that?
The lore here is something that absolutely stands out about Butterfly Kisses. It features a background story crafted with genuine care and attention. Erik Myers was, evidently, an absolute folk legend nerd. It is very apparent that he had a love for the subject. Peeping Tom taps into all the same elements that make folk legends of old so compelling. Not to mention terrifying. It makes it all the easier for the viewer to buy into the story. Butterfly Kisses drags you in and absorbs you in much the same way as The Blair Witch Project did. Back at the beginning of the found footage boom.
Butterfly Kisses is rather effective and genuinely creepy in parts, as well. Fleeting glimpses of Peeping Tom promote obsessive background watching. The sense of vulnerability surrounding the characters adds to the level of fear. You can see that they are taking things too far. But they never realise and are incapable of helping themselves.
Myers shows a little bit too much at times. Some stuff should have been left to the imagination. A few jump scares aren’t particularly welcome. There is, also, a couple of scenes that don’t really work. I think Myers could have leaned more into The Mothman Prophecies approach. Keeping some things unexplained and making the viewer question what they saw. There is a bit too much exposition. Something that comes at the cost of scares. It’s still a creepy movie though. Especially by Found Footage horror standards.
Speaking of The Blair Witch Project. The director of the 90’s found footage horror phenom contributed to this very movie. After meeting director Erik Myers in 2014. Eduardo Sánchez agreed to come on board. He has a brief cameo in the movie as himself. Adding a bit of levity and expertly parodying the Found Footage genre as a whole. And he also helped to produce the movie.
It is very clear just how much influence The Blair Witch Project has on Butterfly Kisses. Early stages of the movie feel extremely similar. The documentary being recorded by the students plays out in a familiar way. Interviews with town residents about the entity. Trips to scary locations and grainy camera work. It is very reminiscent.
Butterfly Kisses conjures images of what happened after the events of Blair Witch. After the recordings had been found. Once the students had been declared missing. And when people finally attempted to deem the authenticity of the tapes. Only with a different legend. Albeit one that is equally as creepy as the Blair Witch. It’s fantastic stuff and it is, also, very self aware.
For much of its length. Butterfly Kisses acts as something of an examination of the Found Footage genre as a whole. It is incredibly self aware and mentions the genre by name on a number of occasions. It poses the question of what if Found Footage horror was real. What if these people were actually going through these things. Documenting and recording them only to be dismissed. Only one character in the movie actually genuinely seeks the truth. Everyone else is immediately doubtful or, simply, doesn’t care.
It’s fantastic stuff and a legitimately unique approach to the genre. It feels pretty fresh and the self aware nature of the narrative. Actually leads to some genuine moments of laugh out loud humour. It would be remiss of me, however, to not point out how much it leans on its inspirations. At times, Butterfly Kisses feels like a combination of successful found footage horrors. Like a tribute act to Found Footage’s Greatest Hits.
It can feel a little too similar to The Blair Witch Project. At other times, it also walks step for step with Lake Mungo. Twisting and contorting the viewer’s expectations. Much in the same way as the brilliant Aussie horror does. It can feel a bit too familiar. A little bit Deja-vu inducing. It also suffers quite heavily for its unlikeable main character.
Gavin, our lead character here, is a bit of a prick. He is difficult to relate to and even harder to care about. Much like the lead of another found footage movie we covered recently, Followed. He is almost impossible to like. This may turn a few viewers off. I would have been quite happy to see Peeping Tom dry hump him into the abyss. He was so difficult to give half a shit about. Actor Seth Adam Kallick does a fine job. He clearly buys into the character’s motivations. Gavin is just not a likeable character.
The rest of the cast are fine. Rachel Armiger is decent as Sophia. Some of her more dramatic moments aren’t particularly great. Mainly down to her facial expressions but she is believable otherwise. She feels like a real person, not a caricature. Reed DeLisle does a nice job as Feldman. Conveying well the insecurities he feels as a camera operator. As well as his resentment towards directors.
Side characters are all very convincing. I loved Matt Lake as Mr Folklore. He offers up some genuine laughs with his delivery and facial expressions. I really enjoyed seeing Eduardo Sanchez as well. His scenes play out as a great bit of satire. Adding a bit of levity to the movie just as it is becoming a bit heavy.
The movie’s actual director, Erik Myers, has a fairly substantial roles as well. He is very convincing. Myers tragically passed away in September of 2021. A sad loss for the horror community and, of course, for his family and friends. My heart hurts for his autistic son and his sister. It’s easily forgotten but when we lose a director and writer. We don’t just lose the person and the talent. We also lose the stories they have to tell. Erik was obviously incredibly talented. If only he was still here to carry on scaring horror fans.
I won’t add any messages about seeking help if you are hurting. I have bipolar disorder, I know it isn’t that simple. Sometimes the thing you are fighting against simply feels too powerful. But too many people lose this battle everyday. Cling to the things you love in life. Don’t let them go. It is a genuinely painful tragedy. Rest in peace Erik.
Butterfly Kisses is a great found footage horror movie. While unlikely to change the mind of anyone who simply hates the genre. Its self aware nature and genuinely creepy moments help it stand out. The incredibly well developed back story of the movie’s malicious entity Peeping Tom. Really helps you to buy into the events of the film. The decent performances from the fairly extensive cast offer a sense of realism, as well.
It is guilty of borrowing a little bit too much from its inspirations. It also features a lead character who is incredibly unlikeable. But these things never really drag it down. Butterfly Kisses is an excellent movie. One of the better Found Footage horrors of recent years. And well worth a watch for fans of the style. As well as fans of folk legends and the like.