So said the mighty island warlord Dr. Klahn in “A Fistful of Yen,” that wacky send-up of Bruce Lee from Kentucky Fried Movie. 32 years later, if Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations is to be believed, banishment to the Motor City is still an unwelcome prospect. The outskirts, at least, are portrayed as a wasteland of gutted homes and dejected souls. One such soul is Sam Reide (Chris Carmack), who makes his living as a psychic for the local homicide squad. Unbeknownst to the police, Sam actually travels back in time to witness the murders as they happen. Back in the present, he submits his findings to Detective Glenn (Lynch Travis) as a kind of extrasensory revelation. Things quickly get out of hand, however, when he travels back to his high school days to solve the murder of his girlfriend. Regrettably, back in the new present, he has become a suspect. And when he tries to fix things with further leaps in time, more people die and he finds himself the prime suspect. Things culminate in a twist that’s no great shakes but fair enough.
Horror franchises don’t die, they just live on in direct-to-DVD purgatory. BE3 isn’t the sort of thing I’d usually watch, especially in light of the mean-spirited original (which starred Ashton Kutcher and should have been titled The Butterfly Defect—yeah, I know, I’m funny). But a generous colleague gave it to me, and my Friday night was free. Also, since the three movies are unrelated, it didn’t matter that I haven’t seen part two.
All in all, I thought BE3 was pretty good. IMDb estimates that the budget was $4,5 million. That’s very low, about 34% of the first entry’s budget—and the first entry was in itself a low budget movie! To paper over the absurd storyline, lazy dialogue and lack of money, BE3 makes good use of its strengths while turning shortcomings into assets. There are no elaborate visual effects—just as well, since they would have looked terrible. The brisk pace doesn’t give viewers much time to ponder how the story makes no sense at all. The acting is good, especially from Kevin Yon as Harry, a kind of mentor to the glum Sam. And the locations have a nice look of age and dark wood, accentuated by Dan Stoloff’s moody lighting. Harry’s sun-dappled greenhouse, overflowing with dense but drab flowers, is also a nice visual touch. Sure, I’m a sucker for mood, but BE3 clearly has more to offer. Professionalism always shines through, and some of the people involved will go on to greater things.
As an aside, according to this article, which I found by way of this Wikipedia entry, Michigan is the new hotspot for filmmakers. Got to love those tax breaks—and at the same time wonder why California doesn’t have them. It’s easy to see why the faded grandeur of Detroit makes for an appealing setting, especially for low-budget horror and crime productions. After all, the city comes with ready-made, all-natural decay that’ll save you a bundle on set design. I don’t think the local tourist board is too pleased, but any money rolling in to the local economy is good money. Instant, memorable visuals—just add film crew!