"Butterfly Kisses" Review: A Found Footage Game Changer!

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It’s rare to come across something in film that’s fresh. Even though cinema is one of the youngest of the arts; genres, techniques and the seven basic story plots are generally a rehash of something done before when it comes to filmmaking. The real question is, how will this story be told differently using all the elements that can be combined to make a movie? So when you see something from a fresh angle, you know it. For me, watching Butterfly Kisses, was a shock to my cinematic to senses and wow, did that shock feel good!

Billed as a documentary/horror film, filmmaker Gavin York (himself) discovers a box of video tapes from two students who mysteriously disappeared while trying to film a project on local horror legend, Peeping Tom. Gavin enlists the help of a third party camera crew to help him truthfully tell the story of what he found after editing the students’, Sophia and Feldman (actors names are withheld at the moment by design), film together. 

We slowly see parts of the film that the students worked on as we watch Gavin work meticulously to have the footage he believes to be real fact-checked. Whether it’s experts corroborating things within the film, screening groups, or man on the street interviews, everything is questioned from multiple people at every angle. By the time the real magic of the film takes its course, you’re absolutely locked into its world and under the spell of director Erik Kristopher Myers.

Butterfly Kisses’ key is that it leads you on a mental trip that causes you to question everything while leaving you with one driving question: who and what can you trust in this film? The film has the perfect blend of suspense, horror, comedy and incredible pacing as it delves between different times, aspect ratios and color palettes. Even the use of handheld versus tripod is done with precise measure. The fact that no known actors are in the film equally builds on the films authenticity.

You can’t put a film like this into words because it’s a cinematic experience! If I had to, I’d say the experience is equivalent to the dream within a dream strategy in Inception. With each layer you're “kicked” into, it takes a second to realize the game has changed, and once you finally start to see where the director is going it's too late. When a conscientiously crafted film doesn’t insult its’ audience’s intelligence and asks you to keep up, you know you’re in for a fun ride. That’s what makes Butterfly Kisses a game changer for the found footage genre! It’s the embodiment of why they created a term like a “must-see” film!

Rating: A+

 

"Counselor" Review

While it may be the easiest way for a filmmaker to produce a project, telling a story that takes place in one environment is also the hardest task. Harold Jackson III has proven that he can conquer the big screen with his film “Last Night”. With his latest production, he attempts to conquer the small screen with his webseries entitled “Counselor”. Fortunately, the single location series is a slow brew story with just the right mixture of drama that you will quickly consume on your laptop or smartphone!

The series is pretty straight forward. It takes place over the course of 8 treatment sessions between Dr. Venazen (Curtiss Cook) and his patient David (Chad Eric Smith). The stakes are simple, David has to complete his sessions as a part of a DUI ruling or go to jail. The complexities that come in to play are the issues in both character’s lives and how they surface during the sessions.

What makes the series move is the give and take in answers between the characters in probing questions about one another, and sometimes the lack there of. The everyday mundane debates over things like the Huxtables, lifestyle choices, or metaphorical coffee are natural, comical intermissions between deeper conversations. With each treatment, new issues arise in each character that build the story and ultimately their relationship. 

At its best, “Counselor” explores two men being honest about their lives while sharing in one another’s journey over the course of time. They both recognize the good in one another, while also seeing their faults. Cook is absolutely polarizing as the good doctor. His extreme control and level headedness makes for gripping drama when his layers are pulled back. Smith executes a constant sense of uneasiness pervading through his character, conveying a troubled life and track record of mistrust. The yin and yang of each character works together for good on screen chemistry between the talented actors who bring the story to life.

The series is a good example of how occasionally wearing multiple hats on a project can be a good thing. Serving as writer, director, producer and editor, Jackson manipulates the audience with his use of the frame and knowledge of the story. The rhythm of the edit perfectly keeps the story going, allows us to forget we’re in the same location, and instead focus on the dialogue. Keeping us on edge like the characters, Jackson uses the occasional dutch angle to subtly suggest the off kilter emotional state of the doctor or David. He lines his characters on the edge of the frame with no lead room to suffocate them in tense moments, or crowds the foreground with an object to force our perspective on his character similarly. Jackson’s technical proficiency supplements the overall story well.

I watched “Counselor” twice in one day in order to write this review and caught more nuances during the second viewing. The series is not necessarily a page turner (or web clicker?) in the sense of “what’s gonna happen next?”, but it is very successful in building its characters and making you care for them. The last installment in the series ties a bow a little too neatly, but for a single location shoot, “Counselor” certainly succeeds on an entertainment level. It should be inspiring for indie filmmakers while solidifying Jackson’s track record as a quality filmmaker!

"Counselor" will be released on YouTube Feb. 17th!

Rating: B+

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.