BUTTERFLY KISSES is an intriguing addition to the found footage subgenre of horror that tells the story of a horrifying urban legend. Writer/director Erik Kristopher Myers shot the film as a documentary and the story is reminiscent of creepypasta. Creepypasta’s are horror stories or legends that are passed around the internet. Probably the most well-known creepypasta is Slenderman, which inspired a real life attempted murder, and has now been made into a movie. The way that BUTTERFLY KISSES portrays itself as an actual documentary based on true events reminds me of the marketing campaign for The Blair Witch Project, which is interesting because one of that film’s directors, Eduardo Sánchez, appears in BUTTERFLY KISSES as himself.
BUTTERFLY KISSES interweaves black and white found footage with what is happening to, and being filmed by, the person who discovered the found footage. A box of tapes made by two student filmmakers ten years earlier is found in the basement of Gavin York’s in-laws’ new home. The filmmakers, Sophia and Feldman, were attempting to document the local urban legend of The Peeping Tom. The legend says that if you stand at the entrance of a particular tunnel at midnight and stare into the darkness without blinking for an hour, Peeping Tom will appear. If you blink, every time you open your eyes he will move closer and closer until he is right in front of you. Right before he kills you, he gives you “butterfly kisses” by fluttering his eyelids close to yours so that only your eyelashes are touching. It would seem impossible to refrain from blinking for an hour, but Sophia and Feldman not only accomplish that feat, they also capture what could be Peeping Tom on camera and don’t realize it until they are watching the tape later. The remaining tapes show Sophia and Feldman trying to figure out if there is a way to avoid being killed by Peeping Tom followed by each of them slowly going insane.
Gavin is so alarmed by what he sees on the tapes he finds that he becomes obsessed with proving both the authenticity of the tapes as well as the existence of The Peeping Tom. He runs into several obstacles along the way, such as the fact that he cannot find any record that Sophia and Feldman ever existed. He is also a struggling filmmaker and has difficulty funding his documentary. Most of the people he approaches for help with the documentary think he’s crazy. He contacts a local paranormal group who literally laugh him out of the room during his presentation explaining why he thinks they should help him. They even accuse him of faking the footage of what appears to be Peeping Tom on the tapes he found. As his obsession and frustration grow, he begins to lose his grip on reality and seems to be descending into madness.
Gavin is not a likeable character so it is hard to feel pity for him even when everyone, including his wife, abandons him. Aside from a massive jump scare that actually caused me to leap out of my chair, the onscreen scares in BUTTERFLY KISSES are minimal, but the film does succeed at inducing a general feeling of apprehension. Seeing the tapes of Sophia and Feldman talking about their experiences with Peeping Tom causes your imagination to run wild and results in psychological terror that is much scarier than any jump scare.
BUTTERFLY KISSES feels like a familiar story, but it is told in such a disturbingly unique way that it is definitely worth checking out. BUTTERFLY KISSES premieres at the Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival on September 9th.