Lionsgate // 2009 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 1st, 2009
Death repeats itself.
The time-traveling horror franchise continues with a frantic hunt for a serial killer and guy who can't leave well enough alone.
Sam (Chris Carmack) is that guy. He's got an incredible gift that allows him to travel back in time and, depending on how stupid he is, can dramatically alter the flow of history. His latest endeavor is the pursuit of the Pontiac Killer, which sounds like a sporty two-door coupe, but is actually a seriously f-ed up dude who's carved up eight women over ten years.
But every time Sam tries to go back in time to learn more about the killer's identity, he ends up screwing something up and the future/present day he returns to is hugely different often to the detriment of Sam's well being. Eventually his "jumps" get so meddlesome he gets fingered for the murders and the race is on to clear his name and finally put the killings to an end.
Tell you what: go into this thing with moderately low expectations and I'm convinced you'll have a good time. I'm not ensconced in the lore of The Butterfly Effect having never seen the first two films, but it's not hard to piece together the gimmick: this guy time travels and his good intentions lead to horrifying consequences. Hence "the butterfly effect." That twist is milked well in Revelations, as each jump Sam embarks upon results in successively messed up shenanigans.
The standout plot device is the hunt for the Pontiac Killer. It's more or less a boilerplate cat and mouse set-up, but it's executed well. Sam keeps trying to find out who's doing the slaughtering and no matter how close he gets, the Pontiac Killer is consistently out-maneuvering him. The killer's identity is craftily hidden from view until the very end and though I'm typically bad at guessing these kinds of reveals, I wasn't sure who was doing the killing. You could probably play process of elimination and fight through the red herrings (and there are plenty), but even if you do score the identity, I would wager that the motivation for the murders and the ending will satisfy. Revelations is a deceptively well-tied together story.
The film could just as easily be categorized as a serial killer procedural, with horror and sci-fi elements woven in. The murders are blood-soaked, but director Seth Grossman keeps the camera jumping enough to leave some mystery to the extent bodily trauma inflicted on the victims. And the time traveling mythology is legitimately interesting.
Finally, a shout out to Chris Carmack, who's in virtually every scene. As the plot progresses, the guy raises his game and becomes a sympathetic character. Sure his dumb-ass decisions to interfere in the past generally made life for everyone else astonishingly horrifying in the future, but by the end homeboy is committed to setting this right. He's a good protagonist.
Onto the DVD, which is no-frills. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen has its moments, but the picture quality struck me as peculiarly soft. The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio is active. One extra: a selection of "Miss Horrorfest" webisodes.
Closing Statement It may not win any Academy Awards, but Butterfly Effect 3 is an entertaining, well-manufactured, nasty-at-times little thriller.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R