English 101 instructors sometimes combat plagiarism by having students read a piece and then write a summary from memory, in their own words. Brian Goodman's Stephen King-like Black Butterfly unfolds a lot like those first-semester freshman compositions. It's as though writers Marc Frydman and Justin Stanley set out to paraphrase some of King's books -- specifically Misery, The Shining and 1408 -- to tell the story of a blocked alcoholic writer in the woods who picks up a hitchhiker, only to be held captive until he can finish his next screenplay.
The beginning riffs on King's work almost verbatim: Antonio Banderas plays writer Paul, whom we see in the first frames staring at a typewriter, the sentence "I am stuck" inked over and over on the paper -- an easy echo of The Shining's "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Paul's trying to sell his house for quick cash because he can't sell a book. When hitchhiker Jack (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) — yes, there's an unhinged character named Jack — defends Paul from a riled-up truck driver in a diner, Paul brings the drifter home with him.
Pretty quickly, Jack goes full-on Annie Wilkes, cutting Paul off from anything that might distract him from his work: He seizes Paul's car keys and traps him in the house, under the guise of doing a good deed. Goodman shoots everything in pea greens and dry browns shrouded in dull gray, which smothers in drab seriousness a story that could do with some style and self-awareness. Rhys, usually an enigmatic and thoughtful actor, mimics the timbre of a monotone, emotionless cop.
English 101 instructors sometimes combat plagiarism by having students read a piece and then write a summary from memory, in their own words. Most of the time, the resulting papers hit the beats of the originals, the paraphrased passages wallowing in humdrum vocabulary because the students haven’t yet developed their...