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The Mothman Prophecies


The Mothman Prophecies, 2002
IMDB Details The Mothman Prophecies

Between the months of November 1966 and December 1967 the town of Point Pleasant West Virginia was likely a very surreal place to be. Investigators dubbed the town a ‘window area’ which is a term that refers to a place and time where all manner of phenomena may be observed and may possibly overlap each other. During this time there were literally hundreds of calls to the police reporting strange objects in the sky, ghostly activity, strange men in black clothing, exsanguinated and mutilated farm animals and one very large and frightening winged apparition who would be forever dubbed ‘Mothman’. Mothman was reported to be a creature who was 6-7 feet tall, gray skinned with red glowing eyes and of superhuman intelligence. He was seen by no less than twenty people and was actively pursued as a suspect by the police force. One investigator, John Keel, wrote a first hand account of the experiences in Point Pleasant which eventually became the basis of the film The Mothman Prophecies.

After reading John Keel’s book as well as doing exhaustive research on the case prior to the film release, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the film. The subject matter is very wide and if not handled correctly could have been botched to the point that the casual observer would be tempted to discount the story as hogwash without looking further into the details. The screenplay, written by Richard Hatem, was in my opinion very well done as it took a few core parts of Keel’s story and focused in on those versus trying to tell the whole tale in a few hours time.

Central to Keel’s story and certainly central to the screenplay are several incidents of a misalignment of time. To me, the confusion that this would cause is truly the stuff of nightmares. John Keel’s character, called John Klein in the film, is played artfully by Richard Gere. Klein’s introduction to Point Pleasant comes by way of going somewhere else.
Mysteriously, Klein ends up in Point Pleasant which is a distance away that is impossible to have been traveled in the time that he was traveling. Upon arrival he is greeted by Gordon Smallwood (played by Will Patton) holding a gun and claiming that Klein had been there bothering him the previous night. This particular scene is one that I find most disturbing in trying to imagine myself in Klein’s shoes. When I was young I used to get very high fevers and would experience a weird disconnected feeling where I would lose track of time and, frankly, of myself. I still have nightmares about trying to get back into a solid reality that stems from those early experiences. The parts of this film that deal with that strange sense of disorientation are so well done that I actually felt nauseated the first time I watched it.

As for the Mothman himself, I believe that he was handled very tastefully in the film. There are several places in where you can see the Mothman but only a few are obvious. It took me several viewings to pick them all up but I felt compelled enough by the tale to view it several times. There isn’t really a scene where the Mothman is seen in full and I think this is a better treatment as the story and the entity are truly mysterious.

Richard Gere, Will Patton and Laura Linney all do a superb job in this film of driving the story and playing their characters well. I am, and always will be a huge Laura Linney fan as I think she brings an element of truth to every character that plays on screen and her portrayal of the small town sheriff in this role was brilliant.
She struck a perfect balance between authority and vulnerability that made me watch her performance again and again.

All of that said, I’m quite certain that The Mothman Prophecies isn’t a film for everyone. I’ve personally had two experiences that I cannot explain which have more or less driven me to educate myself on all manner of things that remain outside the periphery of ‘known’ data. I am, by default, very interested in cases like Mothman and in cryptozoology as well as in hauntings and most other things that sensible people ignore. I’ve read many a review where folks have said that the performances were credible enough but that the material is laughable. I can see that, frankly, the whole case is a hard pill to swallow but then there are those hundreds of witnesses, right?

If you love a good spooky story that just might be true, try The Mothman Prophecies. If watched with an open mind I think it’s a great way to introduce yourself to the events of Point Pleasant in the late 1960’s.