“The Mothman Prophecies” (2002)
Running Time: 119 minutes
Written by: Richard Hatem based on The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel
Directed by: Mark Pellington
Featuring: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton, Debra Messing, Lucinda Jenney and Alan Bates
John Klein: “I think we can assume that these entities are more advanced than us. Why don’t they just come right out and tell us what’s on their minds?”
Alexander Leek: “You’re more advanced than a cockroach, have you ever tried explaining yourself to one of them?”
The latest in the Imprint line has been released in the form of the Australasian Blu-ray debut of the horror/drama “The Mothman Prophecies” (2002) loosely based on the nook by the now deceased John Keel that saw some major talent in the form of leads Richard Gere and Laura Linney as well the, at the time, up and coming director Mark Pellington who bring to the screen something wholly original that does not feel like an extended “X-Files” (1991-2019) but something that is entirely encapsulated in the narrative and plot played out onscreen between a few characters that turns out to be more about loss and grief than the titular supernatural being ever present in the minds of protagonists.
Like all good genre movies the more important aspects are almost always the human stories at the heart of the plot, in this case the ability to deal with life, what it hands you, the seeming randomness of life and the idea of sudden loss is what is at the heart of “The Mothman Prophecies”. Sure there is a mystery about the idea of being for-warned about cataclysmic events and disasters which is what the main character thinks he is in need of especially after the loss of his wife to a brain tumour which ends up killing her. The main characters grief drives him to say and do things he never would have before his wife’s death, he lets his own life go for the sake of some light in his own darkness. Amongst all the mystery is a man trying to hold on to something that is already gone, it is not until he is faced with the possibility of sinking further into his own loss or turning a corner to hold onto someone who is present that he realises not only what he has lost but I way to move on.
“The Mothman Prophecies” is based around Washington Post columnist John Klein and his wife Mary who are involved in an accident when Mary swerves to avoid a black, flying figure. John survives the crash unscathed, but Mary is hospitalized. After Mary dies of an unrelated brain tumor, John discovers mysterious drawings of the creature that she had created in the hospital. Two years later, John becomes lost in West Virginia and inexplicably finds himself in Point Pleasant, hundreds of miles off his route. Driving in the middle of the night, his car breaks down, and he walks to a nearby house to get help. The owner, Gordon Smallwood, reacts violently to John’s appearance and holds him at gunpoint. Local police officer Connie Mills defuses the situation while Gordon explains that this is the third consecutive night John has knocked on his door at 2:30 AM asking to use a phone, much to John’s disbelief. John stays at a local motel and ponders how he ended up so far from his original destination. The movie then moves into a familiar genre plot that involves talking to others about similar experiences until the whispers that we hear become solid for John to solve which is where he reconciles his wife’s death.
Directed by Mark Pellington who up to this point had been known for his huge oeuvre in directing music videos for some of the biggest acts in the 1990s (he still directs music videos to this day), he had also directed the excellent conspiracy thriller “Arlington Road” (1999) to great success and so followed that up with this paranormal tale that was adapted by Richard Hatem. When viewing Pellington’s work it is not difficult to understand why he was so successful in his movies and music videos, he is a visual director and that does fail him with “The Mothman Prophecies”. Throughout the almost liner narrative there are visual clues throughout that obviously represent a Moth, there are twin visuals everywhere much like the wings of a moth or even its body or eyes, they are haunting and jarring at the very same time. Although written by a novice in Richard Hatem who has gone on to have a very good career in televisions the plot itself is rather pedestrian in that it feels like an extended genre television episode but because of the direction of Pellington it is elevated to something more personal and a highlight within the year it was produced.
This is a movie anchored by three performances, the obvious one being that of Richard Gere who had a stellar year when this was released, he also appeared in the hit “Unfaithful” (2002) and the monster hit “Chicago” (2002) so “The Mothman Prophecies” was a nice diversion and offered him a different kind of acting challenge. Gere has been known as an actor in drama, thriller and quiet epics, so a paranormal movie may have seemed a little out of left field but he was up for it and knew exactly how to play the part especially with a director who had only a small amount of feature experience. Then there are the performances of Laura Linney and Debra Messing who are excellent in their roles, Messing only appears for a short time but has to make an impact so that we believe that Gere would miss her and she does. Linney is the logical foil to Gere’s possible beliefs and her part comes into sharp focus towards the conclusion of the movie offering the grieving husband a choice in a most believable way.
I have always been a big fan of not only Mark Pellington but this movie as well so I was extremely happy to see its local release on Blu-ray and it does not disappoint I recommend this movie highly, it is a pleasure to see A list actors in a paranormal movie that is much more than first meets the eye.
Special Features and Technical Specs:
- 1080p high definition presentation
- Audio Commentary by Director Mark Pellington
- “NINETY-NINE WILL DIE: DIRECTING THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES” – A new interview with director Mark Pellington
- “NOCTURNAL BUTTERFLY: EDITING THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES” – A new interview with editor Brian Berdan (2020)
- “DON’T BE AFRAID: COMPOSING THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES” – A new interview with composers Tomandandy (2020)
- “WHAT DO YOU SEE?: DESIGNING THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES” – A new interview with production designer Richard Hoover (2020)
- Making Of featurette
- Half Light music video by Low
- Search for the Mothman Documentary
- Day By Day – A Director’s Journey Pt 1: The Road In documentary
- Day By Day – A Director’s Journey Pt 2: The Road Home documentary
- Theatrical trailer
- English DTS HD 5.1 surround
- English LPCM 2.0 Stereo
- Optional English subtitles