Time Travel Thursday: The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (2009)
Time travel tropes4
The Butterfly Effect6
Gratuitous sex / gore5.5
Matthew Turner | On 31, Dec 2020
Director: Seth Grossman
Cast: Chris Carmack, Rachel Miner, Melissa Jones, Kevin Yon, Lynch Travis, Sarah Habel
Watch The Butterfly Effect 3 online in the UK: Amazon Prime
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Directed by Seth Grossman, The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations was made in 2009, three years after the previous sequel, which itself was disappointing and derivative. Don’t get too excited by this third entry’s subtitle, because there are no revelations here, but the franchise’s final instalment does at least attempt something a little different, plot-wise, rather than just re-hash the first movie.
Scripted by Holly Brix, the film gets off to an efficient start, trusting the audience to be fully aware that the lead character of this movie will be able to travel in time. Said lead is Sam Reide (Chris Carmack of The OC), who uses his abilities to solve murders for the Detroit police department by travelling back to the time of the crime and witnessing the killer in action. Why doesn’t he save the victims, you may well ask? Well, because he learned the hard way that if you use your powers to save one life – in this case, his sister Jenna (Rachel Miner) – you end up killing two more (their parents, in the fire that originally killed his sister).
That inability to save lives has always haunted Sam, because his previous girlfriend Rebecca (Mia Serafino) was brutally murdered and he knew he could do nothing about it. However, when her sister Elizabeth (Sarah Habel) asks Sam to help exonerate the man accused of Rebecca’s murder, he breaks his own rules and travels back to the murder, only to end up making things much, much worse, in true Butterfly Effect fashion.
Specifically, Sam’s disastrous time travel trip ends up effectively creating a serial murderer, dubbed The Pontiac Killer, with Sam himself now a suspect in the first murder and no longer trusted by the police. That’s a great twist, and one that allows the film to put a potentially fun time travel spin on the standard serial killer thriller, with the added possibility that Sam (or a future version of him) could be the killer.
Unfortunately, the script isn’t really up to the job of exploiting its own premise – instead it just keeps shifting the details around, without connecting the new reality to Sam’s actions in the past. It’s also decidedly frustrating in places – for example, Sam’s living circumstances (great apartment, then awful apartment, then no apartment) get significantly worse with each time trip, but he barely even notices, so the script never allows him to realise that he’s making his life worse.
The film also ditches most of the conventions of the previous two movies – there’s no narrative connection at all now (the first sequel at least acknowledged the original film) and the film doesn’t even bother including a decent time travel effect, instead just cutting from Sam in his ice bath (usually with Jenna supervising) to the relevant scene in the past. There’s no memory catch-up either, which is also frustrating, because it makes it look as if Sam either doesn’t care about his new reality or he thinks things have always been that way.
In fact, the script is consistently frustrating, in that it sets up and underlines a bunch of rules – Sam’s physics professor friend (Kevin Yon) tells him early on that he must never travel unsupervised; Jenna insists the ice bath is essential, to stop his brain boiling – but happily breaks them both without apparent consequence. It also fails to exploit the fact that by using his powers, Sam effectively incriminates himself by showing up at the crime scene for each murder.
The previous sequel was notable for its lengthy, but surprisingly tasteful and effective sex scenes. The third instalment has no truck with that, however, instead including an entirely gratuitous sex scene with copious nudity and only belatedly connecting it to the main plot in entirely unconvincing fashion. It’s even worse when it comes to nasty violence, becoming a full-on gore fest in a couple of scenes (the killer’s weapon of choice is a hand-held buzzsaw and it gets quite the workout), in a way that jars considerably with the tone of the rest of the film. It earns its 18 certificate, let’s put it that way.
In fairness to the film, the acting is pretty good, and certainly an improvement on the previous sequel. Carmack acquits himself nicely in the lead, while Miner (a talented actress who hasn’t had the career she deserves) is superb as Jenna, making her character subtly different each time Sam returns from a time trip. There’s also strong support from Lynch Travis as the sympathetic cop (whose character allows for a fun deployment of one of the best time travel tropes) and an offbeat turn from Yon as Goldburg.
Without giving too much away, the film is decidedly worth seeing for its hilarious twist ending. You will almost certainly guess part of it, but the way the film goes fully over the top afterwards has to be seen to be believed. There’s another late-in-the-film so-bad-it’s-good moment too – watch out for a truly terrible line-reading in the climactic sequence.
The Butterfly Effect 3 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.