The Mothman Prophecies (Arrow Recommends)

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

"Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site."

PLOT: John Klein (Richard Gere) a  Washington Post reporter in mourning winds up in the small town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia with no memory of how he got there. From there, shit gets worse as he must try to make sense of “losing time”, spooky apparitions, ominous phone calls… just dump truck full of utter f*cking madness. And how was your day?

"You noticed them, and they noticed that you noticed them. " – Leek

LOWDOWN: My Richard Gere genre month has now come to an end. I started off by covering the excellent INTERNAL AFFAIRS, I then re-visited the so ludicrous it’s a trip Hitchcock knock-off FINAL ANALYSIS and to wrap it up, it was a toss up between PRIMAL FEAR and THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES (GET THE BLU RAY HERE). I chose the latter, cause, well; I was just really stoked to see it again. I adored the film on the big screen when it came out in 2002 and I was curious to see if that same love would pour out of my veins being that I’m a more mature film buff today. Good news for me, MOTHMAN came through! I think I even dug it a bit more the second time. Here’s why!

The Mothman Prophecies is based on John Keel’s 1975 book of the same name, which was all about his investigation into the enigmatic Mothman (named after Batman by the press cause of the 1960’s TV Show) which was sighted, left, right and center in Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966-67. In his research Keel connected the Moth Pop Ups to a mammoth disaster that went down at the time, RIP-ing 56 poor souls. The film itself, although set in 2002, retained many of the elements from the book. The town of Point Pleasant, the many sightings, the accident…  even the book’s author was in the film under another name (played by Alan Bates). And the Mothman’s legend didn’t stop with Point Pleasant (where the have a statue of the beast on display); the winged bastard was also sighted before the Chernobyl kaboom, the 2004 Tsunami in India, the swine flu outbreak in Mexico and in New York on 911 (look at that winged bastard). You do with that what you will. Back to the flick!

Directed by “Where the hell did he go?” Mark Pellington (Arlington Road), THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES pretty much encompassed everything that I love about scary movies into one film. A mind numbing mystery? Check! An evil entity that can’t be defined (Is it an alien, a demon, a being from an alternate reality, a ghost, an oracle? Is it good? Is it evil?). Check! Using the mundane and putting a spooky spin on it to scare us? Check! Watching a sane man descend into the pit of madness? Check! It was all there and then some! The flick constantly kept me on my toes, it played by its own rules (which I respected), went left when I thought it was gonna go right and it wasn’t afraid to be aloof, which you don’t see too often in today’s big budget genre cinema.

Moreover, its cast was beyond top notch! Richard Gere was at his best here as a wounded yet practical man who slowly loses his beans via the bombardment of crazy shit tossed his way. Gere was well backed by one of my favorite actresses Laura Linney who put out an affable, grounded and affecting show and character actor Will Patton who sold me as a “good man” falling apart at the seams. What about Alan Bates? He acted with his beard and cashed a check i.e. he owned it as always. The characters here came off as layered, flawed yet earnest. I truly felt for everybody and that only jacked up the stakes in terms of the situation and by result fueled the suspense. So kudos to screenwriters Richard Hatem and John A. Keel! You gave the performers the potent juice they needed to rock it!

The cherry on top was definitely the nightmare on celluloid by way of LSD imagery, the dread filled atmosphere, the inventive editing and the audacious use of sound. Pellington and company should pat each other on the ass cause to this day; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a horror film with such a distinct audio/visual style. The gloomy mood was laid on thick, the unorthodox camera angles/movements killed me in terms of their ingenuity, the framing was sublime and the random use of vibrant colors was mucho efficient. Editing wise, the sly scene transitions and the subliminal frames hit home. Finally the use of sound to trip me out was nuts!  Bizarre noises were peppered throughout which only amplified the eerie feel of the piece. Shit, the director even inserted his own voice over some of the actors in Post to imply that anybody could be the Mothman. They went for the gold on this one! And it worked on this clown. Respect!

Tag to all that a strong emotional undercurrent (Gere’s pain was the heart of the film for me), all kinds of visual clues that you may not register on a first watch but that you may catch on a second round, a moody/eclectic score by TomandAndy, a handful of masterfully executed nail biting sequences and one hell of a visceral disaster set piece that has to be seen to be believed in terms of the technical prowess they achieved and you get a movie that still stands tall and proud as one of a kind today!

If I had one complaint to pea soup your way, it would be that the narrative lost a bit of its steam during the middle act and somewhat went around in circle, which affected the pacing. In fact, a good 15 minutes could have been shaved off this one’s posterior and it would have been better for it. But what do I know? Exactly. Jack and shit. When THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES was released -critics weren’t crazy about it and it didn’t make much coin. But I loved it back then (am gonna re-read my 2002 thoughts now and see if they gel with how I felt today) and it still owned me on this re-watch.  Not sure what happened to Mark Pellington after this one, he kind of fell off the Hollywood “big time” radar. But with this puppy alone, he should be proud! Think a  mix of mainstream and experimental, one that thankfully didn’t spoon-feed the audience. If you haven’t seen this trippy macabre treat… well… nough said!


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Source: Arrow in the Head

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