Have you heard about the legend of the Blink Man? I hadn’t but after watching writer/director Erik Kristopher Myers’ Butterfly Kisses, I’m a lot more familiar with it. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.
Let’s get this clear from the start. I loved this film. Regular readers will know that I have deep-seeded hatred of found-footage horror. Having seen what was once innovate and interesting descend into farce and be used as an excuse for poor quality horror. While I’m always willing to have my mind changed, it so rarely happens. Inevitably each new found-footage I see falls into the same traps. Making the same mistakes as the many that came before it.
I went into Butterfly Kisses with trepidation and came out blown away. This isn’t just an excellent found footage, it’s an excellent horror movie. One that does what so few manage to do competently.
Before we get into what makes Butterfly Kisses such a compelling watch, let’s talk about the legend of the Blink Man. It surrounds the Ilchester Tunnel which is located near the town of Ellicott City, Maryland. An old railroad tunnel, supposedly an old homeless blind man was hit and killed by a train in the early 1900s and now his spirit haunts the tunnel.
The legend goes that if you stare into the tunnel for one hour starting at 11pm all without blinking, the Blink Man will appear. From that moment onwards, every time you blink, he will get closer until eventually his eyelashes brush against your face…like butterfly kisses.
It’s an interesting urban legend used to its fullness by Erik Kristopher Myers.
Butterfly Kisses is not your traditional found-footage horror. Instead it’s a found-footage movie within a found-footage movie wrapped up in a documentary. Telling several stories at once, the end result could have been an absolute mess but it’s not. When Myers (who sent us a screener) promised something different, he was not being dishonest.
The movie is based around Gavin (Seth Adam Kallick), a former film student who hasn’t exactly become the world-renowned director he might have hoped to be. In fact, he’s stuck shooting weddings. Desperate for something to make his mark, he comes across a box of videos hidden in a newly bought house. Around about 40 tapes of black and white footage shot by two film students’ years before, He discovers that they were investigating the legend of the Blink Man.
Gavin sees this as his chance so he takes the mess of footage and complies it into a feature film then hires a company to document the process.
This might sound incredibly boring and tedious but it is not. In fact, it’s down-right brilliant and makes for one of the most compelling watches in modern horror.
On the one hand we have the two film students, making a film about an urban legend. On the other we have a failed film student making a film about their film! Two different sets of people but all obsessed with the Blink Man and trying to get the story out. All while dealing with the real-life difficulties of actually making a movie. This side of things really comes out in Gavin’s story as he wrestles with the ethics of using someone else’s’ work, the lack of interest in found-footage horror anymore and trying to get funding.
This puts a massive strain on Gavin and his family and his desperation to be trusted and believed in makes him a very sympathetic character. Even when shown clear evidence of how the two film students could have faked their footage, he refuses to accept it. This sadly leads to humiliation after humiliation, something the wannabe director just isn’t able to handle.
All of this character work sees the horror take a backseat for sometime. However, be warned because like the legend, it slowly gets closer as we go on.
The over-riding question is if the Blink Man is real and Butterfly Kisses goes a long way to proving that it is not. So much so, that it’s easy to find oneself forgetting we’re watching a horror. Not just watching a documentary on indie film-making and the pitfalls that exist. That it is gutsy enough to swing some punches at the genre itself, is refreshing. Not in a ‘look how stupid found-footage is’ kind of way but rather legit complaints that many (including this website) has.
Butterfly Kisses takes those complaints and delivers something that is at its core, found-footage but doesn’t feel like it is. All due to the fantastic cast (Seth Adam Kallick is brilliant – someone to watch). The switching between styles that is seamlessly done and never feels like an interruption and an overriding feeling of dread. This is a movie that has been expertly put together. As all the stories converge, we get a payoff that makes the journey so much sweeter.
Those looking for a jump scare-athon with the Blink Man flashing up all over the place will find themselves disappointed. He’s the bogeyman in the background, something that we occasionally see as a shadow and little else. Butterfly Kisses is way more focused on creating character driven dark atmosphere and is far better for it.
Don’t let that fool you though. It has the power to creep and I am proud to admit that during a scene at the end, the hairs on my neck went up. It made me want to stand up and applaud as someone who just doesn’t get creeped out by horror anymore. Bravo, everyone involved in Butterfly Kisses. You blew me away and we can only hope many others will now go and experience the legend of the Blink Man for themselves.
See this movie.