Review of "Mothman Prophecies, The"

published 27/08/2002 | LostWitness
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Pro Creepy, atmospheric
Cons Not what you might expect
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"WHAT DO YOU SEE"

Few phenomenon have captured the imagination of human beings in quite the same way as precognition. Hundreds of stories have been written of strange people or creatures who possess an ability to predict the future. Based on John A Keel’s famous novel, The Mothman Prophecies examines a supposedly true chain of events that took place in a small West Virginia town called Point Pleasant.

John Klein is a successful reporter for the Washington Post with everything to live for. He and his wife Mary have just bought their dream house and are driving home one night when Mary is startled by a strange figure in the middle of the road. Losing control of the vehicle, she crashes the car and later dies from her injuries. Two years later, whilst driving along the highway, John inexplicably finds himself on the Ohio/West Virginia border, many hundreds of miles away from where he expected to be. When his car breaks down, John finds himself in the middle of a bizarre confrontation with one of the locals, who insists that John has been harassing him for the last few nights.

Whilst being escorted to a local motel, John becomes involved in conversation with the local police officer. It transpires that a number of strange things have been happening in the town. One of the local residents advises John that he has received a strange telephone call, with a few sinister words uttered about impending doom. When John discovers that an old woman has reported a sighting of a strange figure in her back yard, he realises that there is a link between the death of his wife, and the events taking place in Point Pleasant. Clinging to the belief that his wife may in fact be alive, John struggles to piece together the clues that will solve the mystery of Point Pleasant – and avert a terrible disaster.

Despite having read one or two reviews of The Mothman Prophecies, I went about watching the film in relative ignorance, as I couldn’t recall the nature of the plot. I was led to believe that the Keel novel was an alien conspiracy story, with tales of UFO sightings and abductions, so I was all the more surprised by the actual content of this film. Intriguing from the outset, The Mothman Prophecies is a compelling story that feels very much like the television series The X Files.

The Mothman Prophecies is not a particularly frightening film – I would describe it more as slightly creepy and very atmospheric. As soon as the happy couple are introduced at the start of the film, you know that something is going to happen to one or both of them and the director manages to sustain this feeling of impending doom right throughout the film. Given the prophetic nature of the content, this is quite a clever move – can the viewer predict what is going to happen in the film? The “Mothman” is discussed and referred to in the movie through snippets of information and through the very briefest glimpses. Whilst there is an attempt to explain the existence of the Mothman, the film doesn’t purport to have all the answers and I liked this. In a story of the unexplained or the paranormal, all too often, filmmakers will strive to dot every i and cross every t. I find a story much more compelling if it leaves more questions open than answered. This is all the more relevant when you consider that the events of the film are based on true events.

I thought that the casting in this movie was excellent, with some very accomplished performances all round – everybody seemed to fit in to the story. In the title role of John Klein, Richard Gere is thrown into quite unusual territory compared to his previous roles and I think he thrives on it. Coming across very much like an older Fox Mulder, he struggles with the snippets of evidence and whilst he does get to play the hero, he also has to play the victim. I was pleased to see that the makers had done their best to avoid stereotypes too. Will Pattons’s portrayal of the troubled local Gordon Smallwood was very powerful and never veered into the territory of making Patton look like a hillbilly. The partnering of Laura Linney as Connie Mills with Richard Gere promised to develop into an irritating romantic relationship, but this too was avoided, much to the benefit of the content.

The only real weakness of this film is that I think it tried to be a little more complicated than necessary. As the film developed, more and more strange phenomena were introduced and the eventual discovery of what The Mothman is all about is perhaps something of a disappointment. In true X Files fashion, an expert in the field is brought into the fray to add a little historical information about the origins of the phenomenon, but I was left wanting to know a little bit more about the Mothman. I also felt that some of the events of the film were artificially introduced to add a few more sinister touches, and to a certain extent, the viewer is misled into expecting something more than you actually get. Unlike an X File, The Mothman Prophecies also rather lack flow and direction. Whereas Mulder and Scully would gradually follow a trail of clues that slot into place, John Klein tends to stumble along, running into one strange thing after another and it is not until the eventual climax that things start to fall into place. This doesn’t make Klein a particularly appealing character – he doesn’t come across as shrewd or intelligent – just very normal.

These things aside, The Mothman Prophecies is quite a rounded film – there is a relevant conclusion. As the film progressed, I grew ever more suspicious that the story would not be explained properly, but there is enough explanation to satisfy and to feed your imagination. The climactic sequence on the Ohio bridge provides a dramatic conclusion to the film, and sets the piece into more conventional territory.

Comparisons to this film have been drawn between The Sixth Sense. If you go into this film with an expectation of something like The Sixth Sense, then I think you will be disappointed. As a mystery film, The Mothman Prophecies is intriguing and very watchable indeed. Definitely an evening or late night movie, if you want to add to the overall atmosphere.

Recommended

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Comments on this review

  • Lizard_Lover published 04/03/2004
    I saw this for the first time at the weekend. Fab film, but probably because it had Richard Gere in. He is a BIT of a love god. I agree about watching it late at night though. Definitely more atmospheric!
  • L.Yeomans published 02/09/2003
    I saw this film recently. I watched it quite late at night so it did make me a bit scared and jumpy after which my husband decided to say boo when I didn't expect it and scared the cr*p out of me. I'll get him not to worry. I like stories to have a proper conclusion but I would make allowances for this as its based on fact and you wouldn't want them to add too much fiction. I did enjoy this though as did I your review. Best Wishes, Lucy x
  • kumquat published 06/09/2002
    Saw the same highlights and layback(s) as you did. However, I wouldn't watch it again.
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