The Mothman Prophecies

The Mothman Prophecies


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

This is based on a true story and yet screens like an episode from The X Files. Somewhere between the extraordinary facts and the complex fiction, a grain of fear takes root.

In a small town in West Virginia strange things start occurring. People hear voices, see the figure of a giant bird. Electrics go haywire, like the telephone squeals and TVs freak out. More and more sightings occur. There is talk of a seven foot man with wings, who can fly at 100mph. It is inexplicable, confusing and concentrated in an out-of-the-way area around the Ohio River. Later, academics and specialists of the paranormal find evidence of The Mothman, as the creature is dubbed, in history. Its appearance forewarns some tragedy, or natural disaster.

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The Hollywood version lays it on thick and brings in Richard Gere as a Washington Post reporter, who becomes involved through his dead wife (don't ask - it's too complicated and, basically, irrelevant). They even invent a love interest in the character of Connie Mills (Laura Linney), local cop and all-round good egg.

The director Mark Pellington uses infuriating camera tricks - out-of-focus slow motion, etc - and a deeply unsubtle musical score to heighten the suspense. His previous work has been in cineart projects and music videos, which explains a lot, although his second feature, the one before this, was Arlington Road. He should take a look at Jeepers Creepers, another movie about a bat-like man, to see how a simple cinematic approach is twice as effective.

Despite this, there is something about the story that remains compelling. Scriptwriter Richard Hatem contributes a jumble of reddish herrings and weird occurrences, such as Gere driving 400 miles in an hour-and-a-half to arrive at an isolated house in the country where a hillbilly (Will Patton) awaits at 2.30 in the morning with a shotgun, in order to clothe bare facts with something resembling a narrative. It only muddies the water.

Gere adds familiarity. It's not an acting role. He has to be there so that things happen to him and he can respond. He's a pro when it comes to that. He cries, too.

Reviewed on: 27 Feb 2002
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The Mothman Prophecies packshot
Richard Gere investigates true sightings of giant bat-like man/creature in rural West Virginia.
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Director: Mark Pellington

Writer: Richard Hatem, based on the book by John A Keel

Starring: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Paton, Debra Messing, Lucinda Jenney, Alan Bates

Year: 2002

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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