The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
Director: Mark Pellington
Following the mysterious death of his gal pal (Messing) a pragmatic reporter’s (Gere) world is pushed off balance when he inexplicably winds up in a small West Virginia town where strange events, apparitions, phone predications and deaths are happening to the town folks. What is a “Mothman”? I still don’t know…
"John, you didn't see it, did you?" -- Mary
Based on real life events that took place between 1966 and 1967 (but the film is set in present day), "The Mothman Prophecies" is a classy, hallucinatory visual trip that toys with our minds and capitalizes on our fears of the unknown. Get ready to be taken for a spin, y'all!
This flick does play like a more stylistic and longer episode of The X-Files (Gere kind of looks like an older Mulder) but much like that fine piece of television, this baby has more to it than trench coats and the paranormal. Although the odd occurrences fascinated my pointy arse (I love that shite) and continually had me dumbfounded, what really kept me hooked to the story were its psychological aspects in respect to its characters. The script (by Richard Hatem) constantly avoids the usual genre clichés/ caricatures (no John and Connie don’t fall in love…thank god!) and attacks its human elements in a grounded fashion to which we can all relate.
John’s (Gere) evolution in particular connected with me the most. Seeing him go from a very stable man to an on-the-edge mess was mucho engaging. Of course, the fact that Richard Gere (who excels in these kinds of roles) is on top of it all, made it all so much more gripping. Having the events take place around the “fleshed out” protagonist made the arsenal of creepy stuff that goes down hit me even harder. I cared about this dude! He was REAL to me! So yes, this tough as steel Arrow occasionally got major cases of the “heebie-jeebies” and cowered down in his seat like a reprimanded N*Sync fan. It’s rare that genre efforts have that effect on me. Thank you.
On a visual standpoint, I can’t praise Mark Pellington enough for taking me on one of the more memorable visual trips I’ve been on this year (yes, it even beats the rave scene). I’m a sucker for style and boy did this one give me an eyeful! The whole flick flows effortlessly with a steady pace, sharp editing, and subliminal tricks galore while offering us astoundingly beautiful, and at times, way eerie images. The hat trick is that the characters are never drowned out by the film's overly esthetic tendencies. Basically, Mark Pellington gets to have his cake and eat it too. I also appreciated Pellington’s approach to the “Mothman” figure. If you guys are expecting to see an 8-foot tall creature flying about “Jeepers Creepers” style, you’ll be letdown. What we see of the beast (if there’s even a beast) is always presented to us in an ambiguous way. Pellington throws us in John’s shoes and since he’s confused as hell as to what the fuck is going on...so are we. I relished the film’s subtlety, it reeled me in.
My main complaint about this Moth is actually also the main reason why I dug it (go figure). It lacks physical action throughout and as an audience member sitting in an uncomfortable chair with a smelly “mainstream” critic sitting next to me; I craved a bit more of it. Apart from the edge of your seat cap-off, the movie almost feels “one note” the whole way through. More beats would’ve been nice. On the flip side, I respect that the story and the characters were never sacrificed to offer us some cheap boo scares or requisite action sequences. My last pet peeve is that some scenes aren’t milked for all that they’re worth. On many occasions the flick sets up a possibly frightening scenario but then drops the ball too fast by going to something else. The film had the potential of being scarier than it already is and I was disappointed by a couple of missed opportunities.
But in the end" The Mothman Prophecies" is a refreshingly restrained genre film that avoids the more “commercial” pit falls and keeps its integrity all the way. It uses simple elements to scare us (mysterious phone calls, quick apparitions…) and never spells anything out for its audience. I have my own ideas as to what was going down in this Moth nightmare but I’ll keep them to myself; you make up your own mind. Is the Mothman here? I sure hope not. Where’s John Doggett when you need him?
Since the flick concentrates on the psychological aspects of the story, gore is absent. We do get some blood shot eyes and one nasty car accident but “karo syrup” fiends won’t find their fix here. This flick isn’t about that.
I’m a Richard Gere (John) fan so I couldn’t help but like him here. Sure, he basically plays the same role over and over again, but he’s good at it. Gere handles his character’s grief and struggle like a champ. Laura Linney (Connie) is solid as always and her chemistry with Gere is dead on again (they acted together in "Primal Fear"). There’s something very appealing about her. In lesser hands, Will Patton’s (Gordon) hick town role could’ve been treated in a one dimensional way. Since Patton is a strong actor, his character comes across as real. Alan Bates (Dr. Leek) shows up and does well but to be honest his part is far from memorable. Debra Messing (Mary) emanates enough charm in the beginning to make us miss her for the rest of the film. Nice piece of casting since we needed to care about the character as much as John did.
T & A
No time for that stuff! There’s a Mothman on the loose yo! We do get to see Debra Messing nude through a foggy shower door (that means we don’t see shite). Apart from that...nathing! If you want to see Dick Gere in the buff, I recommend you rent “American Gigolo” (it’s a kool flick too.).
Mark Pellington doesn’t hold back and slaps in every directing trick in the book. We’re talking lots of filters, creative camera angles, aerial shots, quick cuts, novel zoom ins (loved the way he used the picture of Mary) and quick flashes. I also really dug the way he weaved the scenes together and the flick’s relentless pace.
The mostly electronic score by Tomandandy is excellent backup to the stylish images which the director pounds out. A marriage made in hell. I wouldn’t mind owning the soundtrack to this one.
Distributor: Columbia/Tristar Home Video
IMAGE: We get a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image. We can also play the film in 1.33:1 pan & scan. Yes, it's a dual sided disk. I say go with the widescreen and be astounded by the grainless, detailed and colorful images that this film puts out. Is it me or were the whites too white though?
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1. sound is impeccable, bringing every odd noise, the score and the dialogue home in a crystal clear fashion.
EXTRAS: What a crock! We only get a trailer for "The Mothman Prophecies" and a music video (directed by Mark Pellington). Where's my commentary? Or how about a documentary on the "real" Mothman? Disappointing.
The DVD is of quality, but the lack of extras is a real bummer. I would recommend waiting for that "Special Edition" that will hopefully surface in a couple of months or so.
Did you ever get the feeling that someone is standing right behind you but when you swiftly turned around, nobody was there? You’ll get that same physical/psychological reaction while watching "The Mothman Prophecies". Sure, the film has its faults but it more than makes up for them with its solid directing, layered characters and chilling moments. It's not the film I thought it would be but it was still way worth my while. I’ll think twice before answering my phone tonight, that’s fer sure. Stay out of my life Mothman!!! Keep your damn predictions to yourself tough guy! I don’t want to know!
"The Mothman Prophecies" is based on the events chronicled in John A. Keel’s 1975 book of the same name.
Click here for a list of real sighting websites and more actual info on the Mothman.