I am not frightened by much, on film anyway. I love horror; I just don’t tremble while watching it. There is plenty in the real world that could raise a goose bump or two (on those less brave than yours truly), but real-world frights have little to do monsters and generally less to do with to logic, both stables of cinematic horror, even if the logic is a bit skewed. The unknown is what make us pale and wide-eyed. As soon as something is identified, qualified, defined, its magic is depleted. It can be depressing, morbid, and life-crushing, but not frightening. Sense and horror do not go together.
Which brings me to 8 Butterflies. Sense is nowhere to be found, and coherence is just out of reach. There is a story, more or less, but it is the story of a dream. Locations are flexible, time is fluid, and identities lack an anchor. Don’t let any of that bother you; it is exactly as it should be. There is a man in pain, searching where he shouldn’t. There is a woman, who thinks she can handle the situation, and digs up answers to questions she shouldn’t have asked. And there is a transformation.
Director Nick Narciso has created a tone poem: twisted, disturbed, and interpretable in a hundred ways, all of them troubling. 8 Butterflies may not make sense, but that doesn’t imply it is meaningless, or that it meanders. It has a course, through dim hallways, round a chapel, and past a goat, with pain as our guide. Does it all sound pretentious? It isn’t, though perhaps I am in my attempt to describe it. You can’t discuss this film with the normal phrases you would use to express why you like apples. Sometimes words don’t do the trick, which is why we have film after all.
If your taste in horror is limited to slashers and torture porn on one side of the pendulum, or to clever character-driven gothic tales on the other, 8 Butterflies will leave you baffled. If you lean more toward Susperia, then this is your kind of creepy.