A thoughtful, caring reader wrote to inform me of the existence of this direct-to-DVD sequel, knowing how much I loved the first Butterfly Effect and its other direct-to-DVD sequel, Butterfly Effect II. So I watched it, liked it, and wrote a funny, insightful review that surely would have touched the hearts of millions worldwide and changed the terms of the argument between science and religion, while also providing downy softness and whiter teeth, but unfortunately it was one of the victims of my failed hard drive, and is forever lost to time. So now, since this movie MUST be contended with, I’m going to rewrite it from scratch! However, all teeth-whitening guarantees are off this time.
Before the movie starts we must endure the most trailers ever committed to DVD, followed by the world’s longest DVD menu intro. Hey, is there a movie on here, too? Then we have a prologue with a mom telling her kid it’s time to leave the playground and go home. She gets jumped on the way to her car and her head is bashed in [no, I mean BASHED IN] in front of her young son. But who is this mysterious hooded figure watching from within the leafy bushes? It’s Sam, who is able to jump back and forth in time, and uses his skills to help the police solve crime! Sam is a chiseled blond in the Casper Van Dien mold.
Sam lives in a decent apartment in a black ghetto in Detroit. His sister Jenna visits. She’s a mental mess who can’t hold a job, all due to the traumatic fire that killed both their parents, that somehow Sam had advance warning of and saved her from. Sam does not want to talk about it. He is visited by Elizabeth Brown, sister of Rebecca, Sam’s girlfriend who was brutally slaughtered. It’s apparently one of those prime directive things that Sam refuses to go back and try to solve Rebecca’s murder, although Elizabeth brings by her diary [Sam uses a person’s mementos as a conduit for jumping back] and offers him $5,000. But no, he can’t! No! NO!
We meet Sam’s time-travel mentor, Goldberg. Then he meets a waitress, and a few seconds later is having fairly explicit softcore sex with her. It seems a touch of softcore is de rigueur for the direct-to-video format. While hiding the sausage he has a memory of Rebecca, which removes the lead from his pencil. Then he runs to prison to see Lonnie, in jail for Rebecca’s murder. Lonnie tells Sam that HE killed Rebecca, and it should be HIM in prison. This blows Sam’s mind and he decides to screw that prime directive thing and go back to try to save Rebecca.
This involves him lying in a tub of ice for some reason, with his sister Jenna acting as supervisor. He goes back and finds himself in the car with Elizabeth, arriving at the house where Rebecca is. He runs in, and finds Rebecca’s freshly-gutted corpse! Oops, shouldn’t have stopped at White Castle. Then, when he comes out, Elizabeth has been killed in the car! Some days you just can’t win for losing.
Now if you’ve seen any of the other movies you know that Sam changing anything in the past alters the timeline and changes things when he comes back to the present, often for the worse. Now when he comes back it seems that the economy is worse, but now Jenna is well-off and Lonnie is out of prison but in a wheelchair—and still insists that Sam killed Rebecca himself. Oh, and now this serial killer has eight victims, where before he only had Rebecca. Maybe Sam should just learn to keep his nose in his own business.
SPOILERS > > >
Sam resists going back to try to save victim #3… but then he does. He watches from the closet as she brings a date home. The guy ties the woman up and it seems like he’s going to rape her—then we discover that this was a kinky scene they had agreed upon, but he can’t go through with it. Then they hear a noise, run in the bedroom, and finds Sam in the closet! With R. Kelly!
There’s a good little throwaway scene soon after where he finds the woman in the present day and she freaks out: “You’re the guy from the closet!” But when he comes back this time—Goldberg’s dead! And you know what else? Turns out with too much jumping back and forth in time, there’s a danger you could go crazy! And Sam is barely holding it together! Then it turns out that the bartender he fooled around with earlier has been gutted! Then the police arrest Sam! Then they release him! Then he steals an evidence book with photos so he can go back and get to the bottom of this!
Okay, here comes the shocking reveal, so if you don’t want to know, skip past where the spoilers end! So around now it really looks like Sam is the killer—which would also explain how the killer is able to get in and out of the murder scenes without leaving a trace. Then there’s a second where you think it was Goldberg, then it turns out—it was his sister! She fell in love with him when he saved her from the fire, and she has been going around behind him killing any woman that he might have gone on to get involved with. And get this: he MADE her a serial killer by going after the killer himself, because if he hadn’t, she would have only killed Rebecca and been done with it. Although like with potato chips, no one stops with just one. Anyway, she asks, now that he knows, maybe he’d like to get it on? There’s a last little bit that wraps the story up, but I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own.
< < < SPOILERS END
This movie deviates from the other two in moving more explicitly into a horror vein [it was part of the AfterDark horrorfest], and also moving the focus to crime solving and away from lost romance, which was the main concern of the first two films. It also changes certain elements of the story, especially in that Sam is able to go back to places he has never been, and to visit people he doesn’t know, as opposed to just going back in his own life. As such, the movie as a whole is more a horror-adventure and less personal than the first two films.
It was pretty good. I find the whole premise amusing, and these films are good fun, but overall, I liked this one least. It was just a little more cold and impersonal, while at the same time amping up the violence and horror elements in a way that verged on the blasé. I did enjoy watching it, and I am ready for installments 4-200 of this series, but I preferred the floridly adolescent angst of the first film, and the aching romantic yearning of the second. In any case, if you like the series or like time travel in general, you could do a lot worse.
Sure, why not. Especially if you’re into these movies so far.
THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT is the first, is very MTV, and is a delightfully awful movie that bites off far more serious content than it can chew.
THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT II is a direct-to-DVD sequel centered around a man trying to bring his dead fiancée back to life.