The Mothman Prophecies Movie Review
Based on real events, most of which occurred in 1966 and 1967 (the film is set in present day), The Mothman Prophecies is a complex meeting of unseen monsters, voices from beyond, and eerie coincidence (...or is it?) Richard Gere stars as John Klein, an established Washington Post reporter whose good fortune is shattered when his beautiful wife Mary (Debra Messing) sustains severe injuries in what appears to be a single car accident. As Mary slips in and out of consciousness, she asks if John has seen "it." "It," according to her wild sketches, appears to be some sort of beastly giant bat. Either Mary has suffered brain damage, or something wholly supernatural has entered John's life.
We and John get a sense that it's the latter, of course, when a planned drive from D.C. to Richmond lands him unexpectedly in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. People get lost, sure, but John's drive of only 90 minutes puts him 400 miles from home. He doesn't know how he got there, or where he may have gone wrong.
While in Point Pleasant (actual locale of the real Mothman incidents), John realizes that psychic happenings have spread like wildfire throughout the town, including a local (Will Patton) believing he's seen John repeatedly in the past. John also connects with the sheriff (Laura Linney, a savior in this film), a trusted woman trying to keep the townspeople calm and together, while some are seeing demons and others are peering into the future.
It sounds like a lot to swallow -- and it is -- but it all goes down, thanks to director Mark Pellington's ability to weave the parts into a satisfying whole. Pellington (Arlington Road) does an excellent job of delivering just the right amount of tension and fright, causing appropriate confusion and fear in the audience. His take on Richard Hatem's script is on the money, with the majority of scenes moving at a slow-burn stride, each seeming to be just the right length. By the time we're thoroughly taken with the unexplained occurrences of one scene, Pellington smoothly wraps it up and moves us along to the next.
In the hands of another director, The Mothman Prophecies may have been run through the Hollywood trash compactor, and we would have a short, thoughtless, schlocky shocker. Instead, Pellington keeps it cool and quiet, and the resulting tone is more art house than outhouse. Layered over the pensive pace are Pellington's combination of beautifully composed close-ups and daunting high angle shots, giving the film a greater edge and a welcome variety.
It's unfortunate that some of Hatem's dialogue cheats the quality of the film at times, sounding as if it needs a pinch more reality and a fistful of polish. Gere and Linney are accomplished enough to usually pull out of it, and when the two share a particular exchange late in the film, Linney (so perfect in You Can Count On Me) elevates the movie into a level of temporary beauty.
Add in some fantastic visuals (effects and otherwise), and a creepy, nifty sound design, and The Mothman Prophecies is a well-crafted, comprehensive chiller, one that thankfully doesn't have all the answers. For fans of the mysterious and unexplained, this is a thoughtful movie that is easily in their future.
The mothman cometh.