"It's like the Universe just pointed you out one day and said,
John Klein (Richard Gere: PRIMAL FEAR) is a successful reporter for the Washington Post. He has a secure future, a happy marriage, and his beautiful wife Mary (Debra Messing: PREY). Returning from the purchase of a new house, what could possibly be better in their lives? Mary says "I've never been so happy."
That's when everything goes to hell.
2 years later, and John has yet to recover from the loss of his Mary. There are other women interested in such a handsome, successful man, but Richard cannot get over his loss. One night he gets in his car to drive. He heads back for the spot where he and Mary had their car accident.
The next thing he knows, his car's power wigs and konks out. He checks his watch. His watch is dead too. Even his cell phone won't work.
He goes to a nearby house to use the phone and knocks on the door, only to be greeted with frightened anger and a gun in his face.
"I told you what would happen if you ever came here again!" shouts the frightened man. His name is Gordon Smallwood (Will Patton: ROMEO IS BLEEDING, THE PUPPET MASTERS). The police are summoned and help for both Gordon and John arrives in the form of Connie Parker (Laura Linney: CONGO).
John quickly discovers that someone who looks like him has been harassing this man. He also finds out that, in only an hour and a half, he has somehow traveled, by car, over 400 miles. He is in the town of Point Pleasent, Virginia, which sits next to the Ohio river. In this small place, these people, in a way even they don't comprehend, have a connection to the visions that Mary had two years before as she lay dying in the hospital.
These visions are of angels, perhaps, demons - maybe. The things may be good or they may be evil. They may even be neither. The visions all have one thing in common though, they warn of a great tragedy on the Ohio River.
Based on the novel by John A. Keel, and very loosely based on actual events in Point Pleasent, Virginia in the 1960s, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES is the kind of creepy, under your skin chiller that is rarely seen these days. You could offer a comparison to THE SIXTH SENSE, but only because that movie too, built up to a slow, skin crawling sense of eeriness.
There is a great visual sense to the movie, courtesy of Director Mark Pellington (ARLINGTON ROAD) who started his directing career with U2's Achtung Baby and Pearl Jam's "Jeremy". Interestingly, he also worked as a Bachelor Party consultant for the movie, Jerry Maguire. I'd love to know how he got expertise in that. Pellington also looks uncannily like Horror / Mystery writer, Tom Piccirilli.
Visual sense is also provided by the cinematography of Fred "The Master" Murphy, who has lived through a career of the nastiest film critics heaping lavish praise on his work even when they liked nothing else about the flick.
Such visual styling, never overwrought, add greatly to the story and fill in thousands of details in silence. There is a lot of silence in this film and it works quite well in establishing mood.
This film has lots of mood, which is necessary because this is the type of tale that cannot be told in a hurry. This is no rollercoaster ride. This film sneaks up on you. In the same sense that forces unknown are slowly gathering around John Klien and the town of Pleasent Point. Something bad is going to happen, everyone knows it, some are even taking their lives over it - so terrible is the suspense and foreboding.
John Klien's reporter instincts, long dulled by the repetitive Washington D.C. soundbite crookery, are brought sterling and sharp to the forefront of his mind again. Not only is he hot on the trail of a powerful story, but the beings or things that are that story have become aware of him.
"You noticed them," one person tells John. "and they noticed you noticing."
The being, this "Mothman", is either trying to give a warning or is trying to level a threat.
This is the kind of movie that really grabs me because everyone in the film knows that the clock is ticking but no one knows when the alarm goes off. Such is the suspense and fear, that many pretend it's not even happening though their faces are gaunt and haunted: they try to continue with life as usual and don't want to hear anyone who would fracture their fragile illusion.
This is a film well polished to near perfection. Bred by three producers, Gary W. Goldstein, Gary Lucchesi, and Tom Rosenberg who have all worked with Gere on his best movies before (lets be honest, most of Gere's movies are crap. He's a great actor, an outstanding actor, but most of his movies are for shit. Who knows why?). Only Gary Lucchesi is known for producing low key but fascinating Horror / Thriller movies like JENNIFER 8, VIRTUOSITY, PRIMAL FEAR, and THE GIFT. THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES is now another notch in Lucchesi's belt.
The direction and camera work, as well as the special effects, sometimes get too clever for their own good, and one scene of John in the cold Ohio river is far too obvious a special effect.
All the same, for creepiness, scares, and deep chills, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES is the genuine article.
Four Shriek Girls.
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