Each week this month, I'll examine an unusual dual theme in film: romance and horror. Do the two ever compliment each other? Although it seems to be an unlikely combination, in many films, the contrast is just the right recipe for audiences. As a relief from unrelenting suspense, or as an exciting thrill to a predictable love story, romance and horror are sometimes just the right element to keep the movie exciting from beginning to end. Up for review this week is the psychological thriller.
The Butterfly Effect
Starring: Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart
Evan Treborn seems to be the average child of a struggling single mom. He rides his bike, plays with his friends, and loves his dog. But then he starts having blackouts. During these blackouts, he does things that he can’t remember and ends up in places without knowing how he got there. After being taken to specialist after specialist, Evan is finally told to keep a daily journal, logging even the most mundane activities in hopes of discovering the source of his fugues.
Throughout his childhood, Evan maintains a long-time crush on his neighbor and friend, Kayleigh Miller. Despite having to endure her troubled home and sociopathic brother Tommy, Kayleigh is a sweet girl who returns Evan’s innocent affection. After a horrific event that Evan can’t remember, his mother decides that they should move away, and Evan is forced to leave Kayleigh behind with the promise that he’ll come back for her someday.
In college, Evan excels. His mysterious blackouts ended many years before, and he doesn’t give them a second thought until he happens upon one of his childhood journals. When he reads it, the blackout from that time is suddenly filled with memory, and Evan realizes the truth. With his newfound knowledge, Evan not only believes that he can make himself remember just what happened during his childhood fugues, but he can also alter the past. His motivation is his love for Kayleigh, who led a hard, cruel life when Evan moved away, and can’t live with her own terrible memories. Evan is determined to change the past to give Kayleigh a better future - one in which they can finally be together.
“The Butterfly Effect” is a great love story, and I for one was truly surprised at how much I enjoyed the film. Ashton Kutcher was a real surprise to me as Evan, a deeply troubled young man who only wants to change the lives of those he loves for the better. I saw the barest hint of the “Punked” Ashton during one light-hearted scene, but he truly became someone else for this role. Amy Smart is not an actress that I really noticed until this film. She is truly a chameleon in this movie, switching convincingly from bubbly cheerleader to jaded prostitute without a hitch. Melora Walters and William Lee Scott were also quite memorable as Evan’s Mom and Kayleigh’s disturbed older brother. You can’t deny the brilliance of casting such amazing child actors, either. Jesse James and Cameron Bright, who both played Tommy Miller at different ages, were so good they were scary. Overall, the film is a must see and if you can, rent the director’s cut, which offers alternate endings.
Horror Factor: 7.5
Romance Factor: 8.5