Mothman Prophecies, The

The Mothman Prophecies (12)

CAST your mind back 25 years to a peculiar little movie called The Medusa Touch.

In it the late, great Richard Burton played a man with the power to create catastrophe. You name it: airliners crash, people jump to their deaths, cars inexplicably run down their owners, buildings collapse.

Complete tosh of course, but there is something utterly compelling about the whole thing and Burton’s performance as the man who wills disasters to occur.

There is something of the same atmosphere to The Mothman Prophecies, an enjoyable chiller-thriller loosely based on fact in which US reporter Richard Gere is thrust into the midst of a series of bizarre occurrences when his wife crashes their car while avoiding some shadowy shape in the road.

Before she dies she asks whether he “saw it”. Gere of course has no idea what she is talking about, but pretty soon he finds himself 400 miles from his destination, lost in the nowhere town of Point Pleasant and caught up in an escalating situation involving impending disasters.

People hallucinate, hear voices and, most worryingly, catch fleeting glimpses of a dark, shadowy figure in the moments directly before something terrible occurs. The witnesses involved draw their visions, and their prophecies always come true, heralding air crashes and other devastating events.

Directed by Mark Pellington with all the sureness that marked his 1999 drama Arlington Road, The Mothman Prophecies moves beyond the standard sci-fi silliness of The X Files to present an eerie, unearthly look at the hidden worlds we too often dismiss.

What’s certain is that Pellington (and, probably, Gere and co-stars Laura Linney, Will Patton and Alan Bates) is caught up in his own story, though it is Bates, as a media-shunning author, who is left to deliver the inevitable tale of doom.

He relates the legend of the mothman, a creature that has existed for millennia and appears whenever a disaster or catastrophe is looming. His point, delivered in dread, whispered tones, is that something is coming to Point Pleasant.

Packed to the gills with creepy, thought-provoking and plain bizarre moments, particularly in its first 40 minutes, it offers Gere one of his best roles for some time and he delivers as the no-nonsense type forced to accept the existence of the supernatural.

Linney, fresh from an Oscar nomination for You Can Count on Me, makes a comfortable shift into the big time playing a small-town cop who hates what she is being asked to investigate. Her journey from disbelief to stunned acceptance is one to savour.

And the mothman? That’s the hardest part to swallow, yet it is the element that is most based on fact. Part Salem’s Lot, part aforementioned The Medusa Touch, The Mothman Prophecies eventually fails to fit any genre and culminates in an act of horror that belongs firmly in the realm of the disaster movie rather than the fright flick.

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