The Mothman Prophecies



USA 2002
director : Mark Pellington
script : Richard Hatem (based on book by John A Keel)
cinematography : Fred Murphy
editing : Brian Berdan
music : Tomandandy
lead actors : Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton, Alan Bates
with : Debra Messing, Lucinda Jenney, Bill Laing
119 minutes

X-Files devotees saddened by the show’s recently-announced demise can console themselves with Mothman Prophecies, another broodingly ominous but finally frustrating foray into The Unexplained. It’s easy to see what drew Gere – Hollywood’s high priest of New Age mysticism – to this script, based on John A Keel’s chronicle of how paranormal shenanigans supposedly predicted a real-life tragedy in 1967 West Virginia.

Updated to the present, the film sees journalist John Klein (Gere) driving through the state one night and inexplicably finding himself 400 miles off course in the town of Point Pleasant. The locals insist this is the third night in a row he’s ended up there, and cop Connie (Linney) tells him about even spookier goings-on: the townsfolk have reported terrifying glimpses of a tall, winged figure. Drawings of this ‘moth-man’ remind Klein how his wife (Messing) became obsessed with similar images just before she died of a brain tumour two years ago, and his researches bring him into contact with a grizzled professor (Bates) who believes such visions afflict places and people which are about to be hit by a dreadful event.

Director Pellington explored this race-against-catastrophe turf in Arlington Road, and he gives Mothman an absorbing, Michael Mann-ish feel, expertly choreographing blurry images, dark shadows, woozy sounds and a haunting score by electronica duo Tomandandy. It’s easy to be carried along, all the way to the gangbusters climax when hell finally does break loose – but ultimately no amount of stylish bravado can distract us from the countless loose ends the script deliberately avoids tying up.

The promising scenario combines In The Mouth of Madness and The Dead Zone: an outsider drawn to a ‘cursed’ town by paranormal forces must avert some disaster only he knows about. By insisting that it’s ‘based on true events’, however, Mothman ends up more like the film of Communion, Whitley Streiber’s me-and-the-aliens ‘confession.’ We’re asked to swallow so many unlikely and/or irrational things we can’t help suspecting these books and films were designe

30th January, 2002
(seen Jan-26-02, Cineworld, Milton Keynes)

by Neil Young
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