Review: “The Mothman Prophecies”

In 1966 the real life residents of Point Pleasant, West Virginia were plagued by sightings of what was claimed to be a 7-foot tall creature with giant red hypnotic eyes built right into its shoulders, and wings like a butterfly – the creature came to be known as the ‘Mothman’. As time has passed by numerous books and theories have been done on the subject and along the way notions of UFOs have become tied into the legend which is a shame as on its own its quite a fascinating story.

Now after languishing for years in development hell, Columbia has finally done a new film based on arguably the most famous book on the subject – John Keel’s “The Mothman Prophecies”. The movie combines several key events and testimonies taken in regards to the legend and formats them into a narrative fictional story of a reporter who visits the town and has visions/visitations himself which he tries to learn the truth about as a car crash which played a part in his wife’s death was caused by a creature others in this town have seen.

While it is most decidedly creepy, as a film its sadly a write-off. It comes as no surprise that the film’s director Mark Pellington did music videos before this – the directing technique makes Michael Bay look slow and is filled with too many fast edits and closeups which do work in the creepy moments but otherwise are annoyingly distracting in the quieter ones. Still a quite imaginative use of sound will keep you on edge throughout and when the scares are up such as the cause of the car accident at the start, it will truly make you jump in your seat.

Its not enough however to cover a lacklustre script undecided about whether it wants to be a popcorn scare movie or a serious and somewhat religious story with deeper meaning. The creature itself seems to be seen as almost ethereal – a mastermind behind numerous strange things ranging from a telephone voice to ghosts of dead wives, but is unglimpsable and therefore as a threat its unsettling but not entirely scary as its motives and abilities remain unexplained and at points contradictory.

The last time Gere and Linney appeared together was the superb “Primal Fear” – both had interesting distinct characters with great dialogue, chemistry and human weaknesses. The characters here are cardboard cutouts – Linney as the stolid police chief who doesn’t seem to show emotion, Patton playing what essentially is a ‘born again’ but for the spirit instead of the Christian world, and Gere as a blubbering mess (even the great Alan Bates turns in a ‘phoned from home’ performance). Whilst the energy of the story does pick up at certain times, especially with a superbly shot ending action sequence, it doesn’t fill in the numerous plot holes even a mothman couldn’t be responsible for. Despite some great jumps and tense moments, in the end its a bit of a yawn.