Review of "Mothman Prophecies, The"

published 27/03/2002 | peppersinclaire
Member since : 30/11/-0001
Reviews : 254
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Pro Creepy, fairly original, good Gere performance
Cons Cop-out ending, slight in places
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"Psychic Lepidoptera - Pull The Other One"

First there was Spiderman, then followed Ant-Man, The Wasp and The Green Hornet. Now there is a new superhero on the block, more averagely paced than a Ron Howard movie, able to leap believability in a single bound, more powerful than the locomotion, yes folks Mothman is upon us! GASP as he astounds you with his dusty wings, FAINT as he wiggles his antenna a bit, and WATCH as he smacks his face against a searing hot lightbulb repeatedly until you suck him up with the hoover. Mothman would make a lame superhero at the best of times, so thank copulation for this spooky thriller from the brain of Arlington Road’s director Mark Pellington – with nary a caped figure in sight.

Richard Gere is John Klein – no he IS, just listen alright? John Klein is a lucky backstad, a talented reporter for the Washington Post who happens to be going steady with Debra - who looks suspiciously like Grace from Will and Grace…HANG ON A BLOODY MINUTE! It IS Debra Messing! Anyhoo, these crazy cats are all married and in love, searching for a new home and all that malarkey. On a late night drive, something causes Debra to swerve off the road, and she is badly injured. During her stay in hospital, she eventually dies, leaving John devastated and more than a little confused at her cryptic last words, and the sketchbook she left – full of “angels”. Years later, John is drawn into a strange community up at Point Pleasant, a town where it seems the paranormal experience of his late wife is being shared by a large number of townsfolk. One member in particular seems to be very close to one “Indrid Cold” – and begins to uncannily predict some huge disasters. How the hell does this tie in with John’s wife? Time will tell…
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It seems to be de rigeur nowadays for “horror” movies to rely on psychological elements to draw in the viewer to creepy goings-on. Maybe this presumes a more sophisticated audience than those in the 60’s and 70’s where gore, perversity and sexual degradation seemed prevalent in the big classics (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wicker Man etc). Still, this does bring to the fore THE SAME GOD-DAMN KIND OF THING ALL THE TIME! The reason slasher and gore movies work so well is the sense of dread gained from not knowing who is going to buy the farm from one moment to the next. That and seeing someone having their arm bitten into (Day Of The Dead). Where these so-called modern horror movies fail is in their blatant signposting of so-called “twists” that make me want to weep openly. To be fair, I didn’t fathom out The Sixth Sense, but since then there have been a lot of similar productions – The Others and Vanilla Sky to name but two, whose mysteries are fairly contrived and a bit easy to work out if you pay attention.

The same can be said of The Mothman Prophecies. Fans of the genre will soon spot the key elements of the story, and then you have to wait until the last reel to see if you were right – 90% of the time you are! If you don’t pick up on the two devices here, so much the better for you, because you’ll enjoy this plenty more.

Not that I didn’t enjoy this, far from it. I’d decided to take in a preview screening the day before it opened nationwide, at a late night 9pm showing. This turned out to be something of a dumb move on my part, as the events that followed made my walk home a little paranoid. Where the movie does succeed over other movies in the same genre is the incredible sense of unease it created in my mind and later, my trousers, as my bum decided to try and eat my underpants up.

First of all, the direction is full of jump-cuts and flashing lights – not in the lame way as 13 Ghosts, but in a more subtle (ahem) way. Imagine the kind of thing David Lynch likes to throw into his scarier productions – sudden images of scaryness, weird voices and odd noises. Underneath the vivid imagery is a creeping soundtrack that hardly ever seems to let up. It’s all electronica and – again – Lynchian darkness, which never gets intrusive and certainly had the hairs on the back of my neck trying to see over my head. It’s the same kind of suburban disturbance as Pellington portrayed in Arlington Road, only now the scares come from the mysterious Indrid Cold.

Indrid Cold. Credit where it’s due, it’s a creepy name anyway, but as the story behind this figure is fleshed out, the questions begin. You see, the local townsfolk of Point Pleasant (a real place, where the Mothman really did appear to lots of folks, back in 1964) have been seeing a giant moth-like creature, some getting quite scared but others more accepting. One such man is Gordon, who John is intrigued by straight after his rather unexpected visit to Gordon’s home (why unexpected? Watch the movie, Poindexter!). As their relationship becomes friendlier, John starts to discover the truth behind Indrid, and the link he may hold to his wife. Gordon is played by champion bit-parter Will Patton, who you may have seen in “Gone In 60 Seconds” and “Armageddon”. His presence in this movie is much like his others – stay in the background until required, but his turn is very effective in keeping you on edge – after all, Indrid could just be in his mind. But then – how is he in everyone else’s minds too?

Keeping the peace in Point Pleasant falls on the lovely shoulders of Laura Linney, whose town sheriff part is straight out of an episode of The Incredible Hulk. First she disbelieves, then she gets a little close, lets slip important information (her dream – remember her dream…) and gets too close to the protagonist. She has every right to get angsty, the oddness skyrockets after John pulls into town, so she rightly suspects him of who knows what. She’s good but not great, though she has precious little screen time.

Far more interesting a turn is delivered by Debra Messing – the sardonic Grace from “Will & Grace” on TV. Fair enough, she’s hardly in the flick, but as a female lead would have served far better than Linney. The old adage that comedians make great straight actors seems to ring true here. Of course, the exception to that rule is Brian Conley.

Despite some good supporting roles, this is Gere’s show, and by jove he’s back on form. Forget his straight to video Winona Ryder related romantic pap, and disregard, um, whatever else he was in recently, this could well be a quiet little role to boost him back into the mainstream. He’s never “all about me” in his performance, and seems just as alarmed as us at the event s that unfold, well – some of them. He doesn’t have a fantastic range, but it’s easy to forget that he plays a REPORTER, and as such he is designed to be inquisitive and somewhat unaffected. Keep this in mind and you may well appreciate it more than some UK critics who wrote him off.

Now, the only problem I have with this movie is the pacing. For what seems like an eternity, I was led by the hand down a rather congested street of disturbing imagery, false frights and moody lighting, and quite enjoyed the walk. There were times when I thought my heart was going to implode from expectation of a scare, which was fantastic in this world of sub-level “thrillers” like The Others, which I dislike more and more each time I consider it. This is like a constant ice cube down the back for about two thirds of the proceedings. The comes the denouement, and it’s easy to feel that the ice cube has been removed and replaced with a young Macaulay Culkin, who is intent on drooling down your face and shouting “I AM THE BEST! I AM THE BEST! YOU SMELL LIKE A CHICKEN BREAST!” Seeing as I’d been expecting the ending for most of the movie, I was increasingly irritated by the overlong finale, which takes the rest of the creep-out mood and crumples it into a dirty little cliché-ball. Not that the ending is terrible, but it goes ON and ON, and you already know what is going to happen, so any element of surprise also goes out of the proverbial window.

Even so long after I saw this movie, a lot of it resides in the back of my mind – the bizarre sketches that Gere’s dead wife produced, the voice of Indrid Cole over the telephone (yeek! That makes me shiver when I think of it!), the ever present in this kind of movie “man who knows the truth but won’t reveal it all at once”, and the god-damn happy ending. This does fall prey to the “it’ll be okay” mood that ruins psychological chillers in modern cinema, and that makes Ben angry-mean! The only true contenders to the psycho-thriller crown (in the last 10 years) to my mind are Se7en, Silence of the Lambs, Blair Witch and Jeepers Creepers. I probably forgot some, but the fact remains that even COP MOVIES can freak you out more than ghostly movies, ‘cause let’s face it, people are far scarier than ghoulies sometimes. This has a decent imagination in the direction, but the script seems to shift gear entirely for the last act, and that’s a damn shame.

In its defence, you never see Indrid Cole in the flesh, which is explained nicely to Gere’s character. I love not seeing the monster just as much as I like seeing rubber-suited men running around (er…not in the bondage sense, honest!). Also, this is based around true events which leaves a nice tingle on the skin as you stroll home – Indrid may not be a malevolent figure but events around him can be pretty nasty. The movie serves as more of an introduction to the mystery of the Mothman than an out-and-out chiller, which may well be a good thing. Go out and read something! What are you wasting your time seeing movies for anyways? >:)

Like so many features nowadays, this is less cinematic than other offerings, but definitely worth a night in with on video. You can always switch it off when the lame-o ending trawls into view, and you can whack up the volume to ensure you hear what Indrid has to say to Gere’s character when he calls him on the phone…

Thanx for reading!

© P$ 2002

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Links: - official US site – pretty cool, fast loading and with moody music in the background. Interesting facts about the true life Mothman mystery, including a map of worldwide sightings and some unnerving information on the apparent harbinger of doom… - UK site, inexplicably ghosted by men’s magazine FHM. You know, what you buy if you’re ashamed to buy a REAL porno mag. Anyway, irritating sound design and a slow-loading (on a 56k modem) Flash intro that ain’t worth the wait. Oh, and the site is hideously out of date. Enjoy! - get a sample of the book by John Keel upon which this movie is partly based. Ah, go on.

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Movie info:

Main Cast:

Richard Gere – John Klein
Debra Messing – Mary Klein
Laura Linney – Connie Parker
Will Patton – Gordon Smallwood

Rated 12, though teenage boys will get no joy from this – not enough T&A for ‘em. Make them see 13 Ghosts instead, they’ll think it’s the greatest movie since Long Time Dead.

Directed by Mark Pellington
Written by Richard Hatem
Running time – just shy of 2 hours

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Things I learned by watching this movie:

· Don’t pick up the phone if it isn’t plugged in
· Giant moth folks = big trouble!
· Keep your eye on the time when driving
· Staring at bright lights = hurt eyes
· Dreams can come true

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Comments on this review

  • ljuk published 07/03/2003
    Very good review - thought the film was predictable but freaky enough to make me jump when my own phone went off!
  • superpricee published 05/04/2002
    Oh come on Ben - you couldn't even describe Brian Cnley as a comedian! "It's a puppet" - He's a MUPPET more like.
  • sandrabarber published 02/04/2002
    Brilliant stuff. D'ya know, I've stopped staying up for Film 2002 since I discovered you!
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Listed on Ciao since: 27/03/2002