The Mothman Prophecies: Genuinely freaky

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The Mothman Prophecies directed by Mark Pellington horror film reviewsThe Mothman Prophecies directed by Mark Pellington

Laura Linney, one of Hollywood’s preeminent mainstream actresses of the early 21st century, made a pair of highly effective horror pictures in 2002 and 2005 that share a number of notable similarities. The Mothman Prophecies, the earlier film, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, are both products of the Screen Gems/Lakeshore Entertainment production company, and both deal with supernatural events that are purportedly based on real-life incidents. Both films go far in convincing the viewer of the possibility of the bizarre happenings portrayed as being genuine and real (unknowable, highly advanced life forms watching over mankind in the first; demonic possession in the latter), and both, strangely enough, clock in at precisely 119 minutes. But whereas the exorcism film was based on a German case, transplanted here to midland America, Mothman retains its real-life setting and historical basis — the collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on 12/15/67; a disaster that killed 46 people — but updates it to modern times.

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In the film, the viewer meets a Washington Post reporter named John Klein (well-portrayed by Richard Gere), whose life is shattered in the film’s opening minutes when his wife (Debra Messing) dies following a freakish auto accident. Lying in the hospital, Mrs. Klein obsessively draws pictures of a strange, winged apparition that had appeared to her right before her crash. Two years later, the still-grieving Klein, while driving from D.C. to Richmond to cover a story, finds that he has somehow traveled over 400 miles in 90 minutes (!), and that he has somehow arrived at a small town called Point Pleasant, on the Ohio border. Once there, he and sheriff Connie Mills (as played by Laura Linney, probably the prettiest sheriff in screen history!) endeavor to get to the bottom of a bizarre series of happenings that have been plaguing the town of late. Sightings of a strange winged creature, voices coming out of a sink, warnings of world disasters that, oddly enough, DO come true … and a rather chilling entity that calls itself Indrid Cold all lead Klein to the shocking conviction that the legend of the Mothman may in fact be true. But why has he/it chosen to appear here and now?

Book by John Keel

Based on the 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel, the 2002 film is genuinely freaky, with any number of scenes guaranteed to raise goosebumps on the viewer. Among the film’s eeriest scenes: John speaks to Indrid Cold (an entity who should perhaps marry NYC Eyewitness News weather-gal hottie Amy Freeze!) on the telephone, and Cold manages to answer every question put to it regarding Klein’s history; a Pt. Pleasant woman describes the Mothman’s appearance at her window; Klein receives another phone call, possibly from his deceased wife. The film’s bridge collapse sequence looks frighteningly realistic — I don’t know how director Mark Pellington managed to bring this disaster across, even WITH modern-day FX — and the performances turned in by the film’s two leads are both first rate.

The picture also features fine contributions from screen legend Alan Bates, as a professor who has written a book on the Mothman phenomena, and by Will Patton as the Pt. Pleasant citizen who is most directly affected by the Indrid Cold manifestations. Gere, it should be mentioned, really is terrific in the film, expertly displaying the full gamut of emotions, from happy husband to depressed widower, from confused reporter to a stunned believer in the otherworldly. (Not for nothing, but has anybody EVER seen Gere and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters in the same room at the same time? Or perhaps these two were separated at birth … or is it just me?) And he is well matched by Linney here; one of our finest actresses giving another pitch-perfect performance.

Though the film apparently changes and condenses much from Keel’s book, and, as mentioned, alters the facts surrounding the historic bridge disaster, it yet goes far in making its case that these Mothman beings might just exist (angellike?), watching over us and attempting to communicate. Still, their essential eeriness is hardly glossed over, in this extremely intriguing, beautifully shot and fairly creepy film. Recommended!


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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough’s finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a “misspent youth” of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship — although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century — and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror… but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle “ferbs54.” Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club….

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3 comments

  1. I saw this; I remember a creeping sense of dread as things get stranger and stranger. I didn’t remember that the sheriff was Linney, which I think is a compliment to her and how well she informed the role.

    • I always recognize Linney when I see her on film/television, but she brings something different to every role. She’s really an impressive actress.

  2. sandy ferber /

    She really IS an impressive actress. I’ve seen her in any number of films AND on Broadway once, and she never seems to disappoint; one of the best we’ve got right now, I feel….

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