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Movie Review: “The Mothman Prophecies” July 31, 2011

Posted by ambrosestolliker in Movie Reviews.
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Greetings, good reader. A.S. here with two movie reviews for you.

This past weekend, my wife and I watched The Mothman Prophecies. I’d already seen the 2002 flick several times, but she hadn’t, so I thought it’d be fun to watch it together. She really liked it, and, as you may have guessed since I’ve seen it so many times, I’m a big fan too.

A few weeks back, I watched another Mothman-related movie – a documentary called Eyes of the Mothman, released in 2011. I’ll do a review of that in my next post.

Let’s start with The Mothman Prophecies.

What I liked: From beginning to end, the movie is creepy and the acting is very, very strong. Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton and Alan Bates as Dr. Leek all deliver believable performances as people who are pushed to the edge after witnessing paranormal events they can’t explain. Based on true events that took place in Point Pleasant, West Virginia during the late 1960s, the film is a good case study on how interactions with the paranormal effects people differently. For anyone who has absolutely no idea who and what the Mothman supposedly was, check out this Wikipedia page. Gere’s character, a Washington Post reporter, at first reacts with skepticism when he is confronted with tales of the Mothman. Soon, however, he starts to believe that there is something to the stories. His encounters with the Mothman and another entity called Indrid Cold, hit Gere’s character, John Klein, on a gut level because he is grieving over the loss of his wife (played by Debra Messing) who died of a very rare form of brain cancer early in the film. The Mothman entity plays upon John’s grief and his intense desire to remain emotionally connected to his wife, to be, on some level, reunited with her. Gere’s portrayal of John’s grief is very real and easy to empathize with. At a pivotal moment of the film, John meets another man named Alexander Leek, who had similar experiences with the Mothman years before. Like John, Leek was “told” that certain tragic events would occur. Leek tried to warn people of these events, but like all prophets, he is rejected as a crazy man, then investigated as a suspect when the tragedies actually do occur. During their second meeting, John and Leek have the following exchange regarding whether the Mothman is truly real:

Leek: In the end it all came down to just one simple question. Which was more important – having proof, or being alive? Trust me. I turned away years ago, and I’ve never looked back.

John: Didn’t you need to know?

Leek: We’re not allowed to know.

It’s a classic theme in horror that one can find all throughout literature (Lovecraft anyone?), though the best single example is probably Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, and that is that there is certain knowledge that man is not meant to know. In Doctor Faustus, the protagonist is literally torn to pieces by a slew of demons and creatures from Hell as punishment for his attempts to know the unknowable. In The Mothman Prophecies, for the most part, it’s John’s sanity and soul that are at risk of being torn apart and it plays out on a very human level.

The film has several creepy scenes, though nothing in the make-you-jump-out-of-your-seat variety. Like the best horror movies, The Mothman Prophecies relies on creating an eerie atmosphere and placing compelling characters in dangerous  situations as a means of instilling a real sense of fear in the audience.

What I didn’t like: Not much, to be honest. As always, the writers took a great deal of liberty with the very well documented alleged accounts of the Mothman appearances in West Virginia in 1966 and 1967, combining certain aspects for the sake of the movie’s ebb and flow. It always kind of annoys me when film makers use the “Based on True Events” tagline to lend a sense of credibility to their work, but it didn’t in this case because the storytelling was really good. It was also clear to me that they weren’t really trying to tell the actual story, but get a greater truth across, which, as noted above, I thought they accomplished with a great deal of élan.

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