There have been countless imitations of The Blair Witch Project (1999) since its release, but if you think the found footage sub-genre has nothing new to offer, think again. A new indie production, Butterfly Kisses, aims to redefine found footage horror by spinning the concept into an interesting and multi-layered new direction.
The synopsis is simple: Gavin, a filmmaker, finds an abandoned student film project that involved two students who are searching for an urban legend known as Peeping Tom. Gavin wants to prove the film is real while he’s being followed by his own film crew. Butterfly Kisses stars Rachel Armiger, Gavin York, and Reed DeLisle. Erik Kristopher Myers directed from his own screenplay and also co-stars.
If you’re worried that Butterly Kisses is just another Blair Witch ripoff, you’re in for a pleasant surprise! I recently had the opportunity to chat with star Rachel Armiger about the film. Armiger stars as Sophia, one of the student filmmakers. Read on for the interesting interview, but be warned: spoilers ahead!
“If you’re worried that Butterly Kisses is just another Blair Witch ripoff, you’re in for a pleasant surprise!”
Bryce Gibson for Nightmare on Film Street: Before I watched Butterfly Kisses, I was fully prepared to ask you questions regarding the obvious comparison to The Blair Witch Project. But that issue is fully addressed in the film! Eduardo Sanchez even appears to discuss the validity of the student film. When you first heard about the project, were you at all concerned that the found footage was getting old? That fans were tired of the “gimmick”? If so, what was your response to the screenplay’s intelligent and refreshing approach to the sub-genre?
Rachel Armiger: Solid question! And funny because I think sometimes, when people may see that the film fits into the “found footage” subgenre, they sort of roll their eyes like oh we’ve seen that, next! But Erik the writer/director really did a great job in putting a fresh spin on the genre. It’s interesting, when I first auditioned and even went to the first day of filming, really didn’t know what exactly I was getting into. It may seem crazy, but Erik kept the audition process vague and improvisational, (we had to look for the “Big Foot of Baltimore”!) and it wasn’t until we got to the first day of filming that he let on more about the film. More interesting is the first day of filming initially was just a meeting to offer the roles, but surprise! We jumped right in. And while we (the other actor, Reed DeLisle and myself) opted to go method and not read the entire script, Erik explained enough about the project that I thought it was a fresh take on the genre.
NOFS: I did a quick Google search and saw that the legend of Peeping Tom is real. From what I understand, portions of the film were shot at the actual train tunnel? Did you have any apprehensions about going there? Did you experience anything creepy during filming?
RA: The legend is super creepy, isn’t it?! Feel like the creepiest part was when we went to the tunnel at night- let’s just say I didn’t venture far from the rest of the cast and crew when we were there! There wasn’t anything insanely creepy that occurred, but during the scene where Sophia and Feldman take the staring contest champion, Miles, to stare down the tunnel to conjure Peeping Tom, you almost wondered if he would appear! Glad he didn’t!
NOFS: Butterly Kisses plays with many different layers of what is real and what is not. From the legend itself to several different film projects that may or may not have been manipulated with special effects, sound, etc. All of this seems very timely and a bit of social commentary on our current world of “fake news”. What’s your takeaway of the finished film? It seems open to interpretation but in your opinion, what parts of the story are “real”?
RA: Interesting- Never really considered the film from a political standpoint but socially, in a world where someone can put something on the internet, get thousands or millions of views, and some people just buy into it, I think the film is incredibly relevant. I feel it’s important to question what we see and hear, and that’s what’s fun about the film- while some characters buy into the found footage there’s others that are asking the questions and aren’t so quick to believe what they see. That’s what I think is real- you get people from all over the spectrum. It’s really up to the audience to determine what is real and what’s not for themselves.
“I feel it’s important to question what we see and hear, and that’s what’s fun about the film…”
NOFS: The film is very well put together, and your character bookends the overall story. Throughout the film, viewers see Sophia‘s fall into madness. As an actress, how did you prepare for the character’s arc?
RA: What was interesting was the way that Reed (the actor playing Feldman) and I chose to tackle the film, with Erik’s guidance as director. Like I mentioned before we chose to go “method” with the roles, and never read a completed script. Thinking back that’s kind of crazy not knowing what we were getting into; we knew the overall picture but not all the fine details of the story like when and how. Erik would email us a couple days before filming with the script pages and some questions like how we felt our characters would react, etc. For the more intense, emotional scenes, I would just take a step away from the hustle and bustle of set and just retreat within myself, thinking about what was at stake for my character, Sophia, and sort of let my mind wander to the darker places. Fun times!
NOFS: Is there any chance that we’ll see Peeping Tom again?
RA: I sure hope so, since this was such a fun project, but who knows what Erik has up his sleeve, he likes to keep us all on the edge of our seats!!
“[Director Erik Kristopher] would email us a couple days before filming with the script pages and some questions like how we felt our characters would react”
NOFS: What’s next for you as an actress?
RA: While I would be totally down to set foot in front of the camera again if offered the right role, I’ve kind of shifted my focus behind the scenes for now… just wrapped a feature in NYC as a Coordinator and Produced a couple of pilots for a horror/thriller type of Anthology series with a writer in LA. Those are in post and can’t wait when they are finished!
NOFSL: Finally, what’s your favorite found footage horror movie?
RA: Is it cliche if I say The Blair Witch Project?!
Butterfly Kisses is available now on DVD, Blu-Ray, and streaming services. Have you seen the film? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!