Stare down a Baltimore tunnel for an hour without blinking, and you will conjure Peeping Tom, an urban legend who will, as they are wont to do, hunt down and kill you. Hey, it’s par the course, and great fodder for a found footage film.
Butterfly Kisses is in the strictest sense a movie within a movie within a movie, where the core film is a student project about Peeping Tom. The film about that film follows a director trying to prove both the legend and student film true, while the film you’re watching is trying to debunk that documentary. Get it? Great!
As only one person has ever managed to keep his eyes completely open for an hour (and five seconds – true fact), the students come up with a good conceit: they make the camera the
eye and point it at the tunnel for an hour at midnight. When they review and enhance the footage the next morning, they see an apparition rise in the distance, staring at the camera. Good for the film (all three of them); bad for the students.
The director of the movie about the movie, Gavin, is the type of guy who never became the great director he always dreamed of becoming. Instead, he makes a living as a wedding photographer, chasing an elusive big break. Having found the students’ footage, he doubles down on making his documentary. That’s a bit of a curveball as far as a found footage film goes, and Butterfly Kisses should get credit for going meta.
Peeping Tom himself is creepy. The students keep seeing him in every clip they film, or, as it is, every time the camera
blinks. And with every
blink, Peeping Tom comes closer. Or is he? Or did the students fake the film? Or did Gavin?
The two stories slowly meld, maybe not in as clever of a way one would hope – this isn’t House of Leaves – but it’s still a fun watch. The meta sides are surprisingly clever, enough so that I won’t spoil one of the more creative twists.
Butterfly Kisses is eerie enough to be a worthwhile watch, and the dramaturgy gives the movie a fairly fresh twist. It might not be Hamlet – some of the more dramatic turns don’t really do a whole lot – but it’s fun. And that’s good enough for me.