Butterfly Kisses is an interesting film. Although we live in an age when a term like “interesting” can be more derogatory than anything else, the fact that “Butterfly Kisses” is as interesting as it is, holds a lot of weight in the hyper-saturated subgenre of found footage.
Butterfly Kisses, strangely exists in a bizarre hall of mirrors that unexpectedly works amazingly to its benefit. On the surface, the film is a fairly predictable exercise in found footage filmmaking: two film students decide to validate/dispel a local legend concerning an entity that once seen, will move closer to the viewer with every blink, ultimately killing them. An aspiring filmmaker, Gavin (Seth Adam Kallick), years later acquires the original footage through his in-laws and cuts the footage into a film which he intends to sell.
This is the first layer of the film, a simple urban legend story told in the found footage format. This layer, for the most part, is still a solid exercise in filmmaking and is engaging enough to keep the viewer watching. There is a second layer, however, an undercurrent, that I found to lift the film out of what is the typical mire that found footage often stagnates in. Once Gavin decides to market the footage the film begins an exploration of the stereotypical personalities that exist around film and filmmaking, around the paranormal community, and terrifyingly the relentless heckling of the internet trolls and their ferocity. THIS is the aspect of the film, that while it may have been captured unintentionally, really seems to resonate. Gavin begins hopeful, thinking that the footage, and the implications that this was a very real supernatural event caught on film, could very well be his ticket to stardom, or at the very least, put some cash in his pocket and propel his career forward as well.
Here, is the rub. Gavin is thinking of films like The Witch Project and Paranormal Activity and he’s relating their success to a new era that understands viral marketing, an era that cries “fake!” and “photoshop!” no matter how convincing the evidence. To me, the most compelling narrative takes place during the second act where see Gavin desperately struggling to convince anyone of the tapes’ authenticity, risking reputation, his livelihood, and ultimately his marriage. As an independent filmmaker, this is the real horror that people of a creative mindset face with every new project. We show the world ours passion, just to ultimately become fodder for internet trolls and a jaded nation that doesn’t so much want to see your drams become reality, but to make a reality tv mockery of all the things you hold close to your heart. To me, this was the real story, a story about obsession, and losing one’s footing as you ultimately lose yourself.
Unfortunately, the third act settles back into business as usual and the ending is relatively predictable. The acting here is solid across the board and the entire production looks great. We get some fantastic cameos (The Blair Witch Project’s Eduardo Sanchez playing himself as well as Weird author Matt Lake) which further reinforces the film’s nice sense of meta, all while slyly poking fun at the industry itself.
As far as found footage goes, Butterfly Kisses falls firmly into the upper crust, despite some familiar tropes which I can’t help but think constitutes the self-awareness present in that rather great second act. Recommended.