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  Mothman Prophecies, The Don't Get Into A FlapBuy this film here.
Year: 2002
Director: Mark Pellington
Stars: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton, Alan Bates, Debra Messing, Lucinda Jenney, David Eigenberg, Rohn Thomas
Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, Weirdo
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: John Klein (Richard Gere) was a top reporter for the Washington Post, happily married to wife Mary (Debra Messing) and just buying a new house which he was very pleased they could afford. Things could not have been going better, which with cruel fate was the point they got considerably worse as when he was a passenger in the car his wife was driving home one night in December, suddenly she was distracted by something - he was never sure what - and crashed the vehicle, suffering head injuries she never recovered from...

This small town chiller was adapted by Richard Hatem from John Keel's celebrated account of the supposedly true "high strangeness" case of the nineteen-sixties in the West Virginia region of Point Pleasant. Klein and the townsfolk are faced with lights in the sky, ghosts and odd electrical phenomema, as well as visions of an otherworldy figure they call the Mothman, all of which were loosely drawn from the book, though if anything Keel's telling was even weirder and more specific about the oddities, while retaining the essential mystery of a universe overseen by some cosmic prankster.

Despite it's conventional mystery structure, it's more of an exercise in sustained mood and atmosphere than a typical sci fi/horror movie where Gere didn't get a chance to do anything much except look stressed. There is plenty of nervy camerawork, funny noises, flashes of barely glimpsed visuals of obscure significance, spooky music courtesy of Tomandandy and a generally enigmatic air. Many people's main problem with The Mothman Prophecies is its insistence that you take it's "true-life" mysteries very seriously, though compared to the book, it's quite restrained. The Mothman is represented by abstract images, and the bizarre "Men in Black" of the book are reduced to a sinister voice in the telephone.

One issue which may be more valid with all this is that two hours is a long time to sit through a film that refuses to explain itself. Alan Bates turns up as a paranormal investigator with vague ideas of higher beings and an unhelpful "there are some things man was not meant to know" attitude which the film finally adopts for itself. The Bates character is named Leek, alluding to a more faithful representation of the actual Keel, who as this plays is a hybrid of the two journalists, as if the script got cold feet about dedicating itself to endorsing the source, which had a bit of a cheek considering how it was relying on its conundrums to bring in the punters. However, the finale is spectacular enough to justify your interest as the cop Connie (Laura Linney) and her wise words about there being some events you simply cannot do anything about come back to haunt them.

As this works out its themes, it's more about Klein's guilt at being unable to save his beloved wife manifested as the mystery than it is getting to the bottom of whatever uncanny entities may be working behind the scenes of the known universe. Still, there's plenty of that as well, with at least one semi-classic scene of spookiness where Klein receives a telephone call from the film's substitute Man in Black character while in his motel room and becomes convinced by the unseen, distorted voice on the line that the person (?) can actually see what he's doing in spite of being at the home of one of the paranoid victims of the curious machinations - use of the phone is underrated as a method of raising the hairs on the back of the audience's necks. Also with: lots of close-ups of ears, and director Mark Pellington as a bartender; as an exercise in creepy atmosphere, its shortcomings are almost overlooked. So there you go, a review of The Mothman Prophecies that doesn't mention The X Files. Oh, wait a minute...
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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