In The Blink of An Eye is a unique short story collection– not simply because it’s a narrative extension of an independent film called Butterfly Kisses (released in 2018 and available to stream on Amazon Prime), but because it continues the meta-horror dissection of found footage which the movie starts. The stories form a loose chronology of documented cases involving the mysterious Blink Man, a bloody mary-like spirit that can only be conjured by staring down the Ellicott City railway tunnel for an entire hour without blinking.  Be advised going into this one that, though there are explanations as to just what the Blink Man is and how he operates, you should definitely watch Butterfly Kisses first for a more complete rundown.

The pitch for this one is already strange and novel– What would otherwise be a straightforward short story collection is presented to the reader as its own sort of literary found footage. Authors’ notes and asides indicate that each story is true to some degree, with the same sense of half credibility as the movie it’s based on.  While we, the reader, are “in” on the tropes that are being riffed on, the bald-faced assertion that all of this is true lends a stronger sense of atmosphere and tension throughout. The unfavorable character studies and the rabbit hole of paranoia that the movie is built on are both on full display here in a way that makes both the film and the book stronger on reflection.What’s more, the fact that these stories are presented as true and “found” either by word of mouth or discovered manuscript allows the authors to more directly play off of one another and build larger mythology for Peeping Tom. There are two ways that stories in the collection manage to impress– either by expanding on the history of Peeping Tom as he relates to Ellicott City or by presenting other interesting ways to conjure the Blink Man. There are, as you can imagine, very few ways to stare at anything for an hour without blinking, which gives each author a unique challenge in and of itself.

With regards to Ellicott City’s history, the first 2 stories of the anthology and the later “BUTTERFLYKISSES68” go a long way in providing context and lore. Thom’s backstory and the birth of the Blink Man elevate the spirit from creepypasta villain to fleshed-out urban legend and prove that there’s more that can be done with an otherwise flimsy boogeyman than you might think. I was also practically beside myself when I saw that the second piece in a meta-horror experiment makes reference to The King In Yellow and Carcosa– it almost fits too well.

That’s not to say that every story is a winner. None of them are particularly offensive, but there are only so many ways to write within the framework of a single urban legend before it gets just a tad bit tired, and so the novelty of the whole thing becomes a bit of a double-edged sword. I found that the stories towards the end of the anthology were less engaging if only because by that point a lot of concepts were being retreaded and didn’t offer much on their own.

My recommendation for In The Blink of An Eye is heavily contingent on your fondness for metafiction, found footage, and horror based on folklore and urban legends. Truthfully, I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would based on my viewing of Butterfly Kisses if only because it focuses a bit more on the horror and a little less on genre dissection.

Rating

8 out 10 Stovepipe Hats