'The Butterfly Room': Film Review

The Butterfly Room Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Archstone Distribution

The Butterfly Room Still - H 2014

The Scream Queen is back!

Veteran horror film star Barbara Steele ("Black Sunday," "Pit and the Pendulum") returns to the genre that made her famous

Featuring appearances by enough horror movie scream queens to fuel a game of Trivial Pursuit, The Butterfly Room is instantly notable for its starring turn by the venerable Barbara Steele, who’s been scaring audiences for more half a century in such films as Black Sunday, Pit and the Pendulum and many others.

But director Jonathan Zarantonello doesn’t stop there. Among those populating his determinedly sick effort are such horror film veterans as Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Erica Leerhsen (2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake), P. J. Soles (Carrie, Halloween), Adrienne King (Friday the 13th) and Camille Keaton (I Spit on Your Grave). There’s even a cameo by director Joe Dante thrown in for good measure. The good folks over at Fangoria must have been salivating.  

Sporting eyebrows that would have made Joan Crawford envious, the ageless Steele sinks her teeth into the role of Ann, whose passion for butterfly collecting clearly signals that she’s up to no good. Not to mention her warning about where she pursues her obsession, which with her chilling delivery could well become a horror film catchphrase: “Stay out of my room!”

Among those who would be well advised to do so is Julie (Ellery Strayhorn), the young daughter of a next-door neighbor (Leerhsen), in whom Ann takes an inordinate interest.

The screenplay, based on the director’s novel, becomes convoluted as its shifts back and forth in time, detailing Ann’s previous obsession with another young girl, Alice (Julia Putnam). The daughter of a one-legged prostitute (Elea Breitling) who caters to kinky fetishists, Alice has also carved out a unique profession by renting herself out as a daughter substitute to troubled middle-aged women.

Along the way, the elegant but diabolical Ann racks up a considerable body count, getting rid of anyone who stands in her way, including the hapless employee of a nosy handyman (Ray Wise).

Straining for seriousness its portrait of twisted mother-daughter relationships — Ann is estranged from her grown daughter (Langenkamp), for reasons that become all too understandable — The Butterfly Room is too ineptly executed to make it little more than a camp curiosity. Despite its plethora of would-be shocking moments, the film provides little in the way of genuine scares, although director Zarantonello does provide a visually effective climax. Suffice it to say that Ann’s collection includes something more than winged insects.

Production: ACHAB Film, Emergency Exit Pictures, Wiseacre Films

Cast: Barbara Steele, Ray Wise, Erica Leerhsen, Heather Langenkamp, Ellery Sptrayberry, Julia Putnam

Director: Jonathan Zarantonello

Screenwriters: Paolo Guerrieri, Luigi Sardiello, Jonathan Zarantonello

Producer: Enzo Porcelli

Executive producers: Ethan Wiley, Mark Moran

Director of photography: Andrew Strahorn

Editors: Clelio Benevento

Production designer: Roy Rede

Costume designer: Alessandra Montagna

Composers: Pivio De Scalizi, Aldo De Scalzi

No rating, 87 minutes