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The Mothman Prophecies

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Mothman Prophecies

Starring: Richard Gere, Laura Linney
Director: Mark Pellington
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: January 2002
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense

*Also starring: Debra Messing, Will Patton, Alan Bates, Lucinda Jenney, David Eigenberg

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
2 stars out of 4

At a motel room late at night the phone rings. After a moment of hesitation he answers, only to hear the raspy sound of some distant voice, whispering numbers and a few odd words. Standing nearby, she shifts nervously from one foot to another, waiting. He hangs up the phone and sits back on the bed, an ashen look on his face. After a beat, she moves to his side, touches his shoulder and says, "What did you hear, Mulder?"

Wait a minute, scratch that last sentence. This isn't an episode of "The X Files." It's "The Mothman Prophecies," a completely different movie that only feels like an episode of "The X Files." Based on the book by John A. Keel, which was based on some freaky business that reportedly occurred in a rural West Virginia town back in the '60s, the film is a supernatural thriller that manages to establish and maintain a suitably creepy atmosphere. Don't expect any answers, of course, as the tale relies on an impressive recreation of an actual disaster, mixed with some mystical hoodoo, to wrap everything up.

Mark Pellington, whose career was launched by his direction of Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" video, is at the helm. In his first two films, "Going All the Way" and "Arlington Road," Pellington displayed a great love of skewed camera work, whether it was appropriate for the scene or not. This time, the subject matter allows him to indulge himself completely and the director has a field day using odd angles, creative transitions and grainy imagery to create the feeling that something is seriously wrong.

The story begins on a particularly good day for the Kleins. John (Richard Gere) and Mary (Debra Messing from "Will and Grace") have just purchased their dream home and life couldn't be better. Then disaster strikes in the form of a car wreck that lands Mary in the hospital, where doctors learn she has a rare form of brain cancer. She goes downhill quickly and is soon gone, leaving John with a series of drawings of a moth-like creature and the question; "You didn't see it, did you?"

Cut to two years later. John, a highly respected reporter for the Washington Post, leaves his home in Georgetown late at night to head for an important interview in Richmond, Virginia. Roughly 90 minutes into his journey he realizes that he is lost. In fact, he has arrived in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, more than 400 miles from where he should be. He stops at a house looking for help, only to end up facing a furious local (Will Patton) who is convinced that John has been harassing him for days.

Police officer Connie Parker (Laura Linney) provides what details she can: Strange things are happening in Point Pleasant, with citizens receiving cryptic phone calls from a bizarre voice, seeing lights in the sky and catching glimpses of large moth-like creature.

While far from memorable, the film works well enough, although, as with most "based on fact" supernatural tales, there is no resolution. Viewers can only take the hints given to draw their own conclusions.

As for me, I wondered about the Mothman's use of the telephone. I wondered where the large moth-like creature was calling from. Does it have a dark sanctuary deep in the West Virginia hills equipped with a phone? Or, if the Mothman is an alien, perhaps its spaceship can tie into earthly telecommunication lines. I also wondered if the people the Mothman contacted had call waiting. Imagine being home late one evening and hearing your phone ring. You answer and it's the Mothman! You listen as it begins to deliver an otherworldly message when suddenly, your call waiting beeps. Oh, what to do, what to do? You don't wish to be impolite to a being from the nether regions, but what if your daughter had a flat on the way home from her date? Then again, how embarrassing would it be to put the Mothman on hold and switch to the other line, only to be asked if you're satisfied with your long-distance carrier?

But I digress. "The Mothman Prophecies" is serviceable entertainment; the kind of film one expects to see released in the early months of a new year. The acting is good (although Laura Linney is wasted an underwritten part) and the spookiness is nicely sustained. So there you go.

Copyright 2002 Edward Johnson-Ott

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