John Klein is involved in a car accident with his wife, but while he is unharmed, his wife mentions a moth shaped creature appearing. After her death, John begins to investigate the secrets behind this mentioned Mothman. It takes him to a small town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where he discovers a connection with the same problem. Here he meets Connie Mills, while he continues to unravel the mystery of what the Mothman really is. Written by
I just got back from the first showing of the first day of release of The Mothman Prophecies, and I am left with only four short words:
Go see it. NOW!
Simply put, The Mothman Prophecies is the scariest horror movie since RING, Since many Americans won't be able to see RING for quite some time, they should consider tasting another slice of the terror pie with "Mothman". It's already a strong candidate for best horror film of 2002...and even as a hardcore genre fan, I'd have to put it on my list of favorite horror movies of all time.
I had been fascinated by the Mothman myth since 1995, when I first read of its existence in a book of legends and folklore. Since then, I've often thought about making a horror film based on the story. And as you might guess, some one clearly beat me to the punch! The film takes some bizarre, allegedly true events that occurred in the mid-60s in Point Pleasant, West Viriginia and updates the strange phenomena to present day using a somewhat fictionalized story.
Richard Gere plays John Klein (a character that I assume is based on real life author John Keel), a Washington Post reporter whose wife dies of a brain tumor shortly after a bizarre, seemingly unexplainable car accident. After she dies, he finds pictures she drew during her final days, pictures of a bizarre looking winged creature with glowing red eyes.
Flash forward two years. Klein is on his way to meet the governor of Virginia, when his car breaks down. He goes to get help (I won't reveal the creepy details of this sequence) and learns that he is nowhere near his destination. Rather, in the space of 90 minutes he has somehow managed to travel 400 miles to Point Pleasant, West Virginia. There he encounters Sgt. Connie Parker (played by Laura Linney), who tells him of the many strange going ons in the town...specifically, the accounts of a bizarre creature from witnesses who are by all accounts reputable. She shows him a sketch that one witness drew of the creature, and it is nearly identical to the bizarre drawings Klein's wife had done before her death.
You can probably guess where the film is headed from this point; in fact, that's part of the beauty. Astute viewers will always be one step ahead of the characters onscreen, and one step behind...The Mothman, or just director Mark Pellington. Each is pretty damn good at scaring people.
Pellington his his second feature, Arlington Road, a top notch thriller along the lines of Rosemary's Baby. Here he goes for a more Twilight Zone approach, with the "did it really happen?" factor of films like The Amityville Horror, Snuff, and Cannibal Holocaust thrown in for very, very good measure. Pellington has been gaining quite a bit of critical attention for this film, and rightfully so. If he keeps up, one can see Mark Pellington, Victor Salva, and Alejandro Amenbar doing for the horror/thriller genre what John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Dario Argento did for it in the 70s.
Some critics have been apt to attack the film for its reliance on classic horror movie conventions...as if this is a bad thing. It's quite ironic, considering that it is the film's good old fashioned sensibility that makes the proceedings so overwhelmingly effective. It does not rely on cheap scares, post-PC "gore", or loud sound effects to jolt its audience. The film's power is rooted in its fundamentally chilling story, and taken to another level thanks to Pellington's assured direction. He never condescends to the audience, and he never goes for anything less than the extreme. He knows how to push audiences to the edge of their seat...and fortunately for horror fans, he does not know when to stop. Hitch would certainly be proud.
Yet the best element of The Mothman Prophecies is that, like the films of Hitchock, it is intended for its audience, and continues to engage them long after rolling the end credits. The film has a wonderfully self-reflective structure, and a haunting ending (Owen Gleiberman's comparison of this film to Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now is much deserved). However, many questions are left unanswered. Many plot threads still hang. Like Bob Clark's unnerving Black Christmas, The Mothman Prophecies does not provide the closure that most mainstream audiences would demand. The audience is forced to think about the film, and what it means, long after it's over. Mark Pellington insures that the Mothman's glowing red eyes will indeed stay fixed in our brains alongside the film's other haunting imagery. So remember, grown ups and young people alike....sleep with the light on.
My Grade: A
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