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


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+


"Last Night" Review

If you’re a fan of Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” or Allen’s “Manhattan”, you might enjoy writer/director/producer Harold Jackson III’s debut narrative feature “Last Night”. It’s a beautifully shot, romantic drama set to the backdrop of Washington, DC. This soulful love letter to the District starts out slow but finishes strong. 

Sky’s (Judi Blair) last day in DC becomes a field trip around the District after bumping into Jon (Danny Gavigan) at a coffee shop. The chance encounter sparks an opportunity for Sky to mentally escape her impending move to be with her boyfriend,  Daniel (Benton Greene), in North Carolina. Simultaneously, Daniel deals with the unspoken distance between himself and Sky by talking with family and old friends.

The central story is the relationship that blossoms between Sky and Jon. As Sky begins to enjoy her time with Jon, she becomes more aware of the choice she has to make between the life she knows and the one that seems to be made up for her. Sensing something erroneous in his relationship with Sky, Daniel uses a chance meeting with childhood sweetheart, Angela (Nedra McClyde), to figure out his feelings as well.

While the film is wonderfully acted by its cast, the initial meeting between the destined pair is stained by a lack of on screen chemistry. Sky’s initial disposition and body language is bent toward not giving Jon the time of day in such a way that it’s hard to believe she’s interested in him. It’s as if the character knows the movie will be over if she doesn’t indulge him and stroll with him for a few city blocks, and thus obliges. It’s not until an innovative scene half way through the movie, in which the two unleash their frustration on a statue representing the chains of the corporate world, that their chemistry takes off and feels authentic.   

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Jackson is a student of cinema, staging multiple comical acknowledgments of movie tropes throughout the film in his dialogue. Yet it’s his framing and color of this world that stands out. Numerous times characters dealing with their personal issues are blocked by inanimate objects in the foreground of the frame. The metaphor works on the viewer as the character is crowded mentally in the moment and physically in the frame. Jackson captures Sky’s moment of enlightenment by having her walking out of a dark tunnel and into the light. His deliberate pacing and infusion of jazz throughout the film creates a steady tone and atmosphere reminiscent of that first date that had you yearning for a second.

Blair is a star and carries the film as a woman torn between two worlds. Her performance is refreshingly natural and grounded in the moment. Gavigan finds a nice balance between being the pursuing party and someone simply trying to find his place in the world, thus creating a three dimensional character that in lesser hands would be non-existent. While Greene and McClyde don’t get as much screen time, they both turn in solid performances. 

As most debut films go, this one has its shortcomings, but is full of wonderful moments. It’s the moments of insecurity, doubt, fear and joy that can be found in a relationship that’s just beginning and one that’s coming to a close that resonate. Like Allen did with Manhattan, DC’s never looked so romantic as in the hands of Jackson.  

Rating: C+


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.