The Mothman Prophecies

The Mothman Prophecies (2001)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Richard Gere, Laura Linney
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Music Video

With ’Arlington Rd.’, director Mark Pellington was able to breathe new life into the paranoia-thriller genre. With his second film, ’The Mothman Prophecies’, he tackles a supernatural-suspense tale, but the results aren’t as promising. Washington Post reporter and widower John Klein (Richard Gere) is on his way to Richmond, Virginia to interview the governor, when he suddenly finds himself in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, with no recollection of how he got there. Confused, John speaks with local police officer Connie Mills (Laura Linney) and learns that Point Pleasant has been the home of many recent bizarre occurrences, involving strange lights, unusual phone calls, and individuals seeing a strange, moth-like creature. As the reports of this ’Mothman’ resemble the strange drawings that John’s wife composed before her death, he feels compelled to stay in town and investigate the situation further. What he finds is a centuries old myth and the possible warning of an impending disaster.

’The Mothman Prophecies’ retains the engrossing cinematic style, which Pellington brought to ’Arlington Rd.’, but he quickly loses control of the rambling narrative. The film is far too long and the second act gets very redundant, as Klein checks out one weird event after another. The ending does do a fine job of bringing the many aspects of the film together, but it comes about 30 minutes too late. There are a few truly creepy scenes, with one involving a phone-call taking the top prize, but for the most part, the audience isn’t sure what’s going on, therefore, we don’t know what to be afraid of. The supporting cast is very good here, especially Will Patton as a local loony, but we never get a sense of fear or desperation from Gere. He is simply too ’cool’ throughout the proceedings, and we never feel that he’s truly losing control. After seeing the film, I did want to learn more about the real-life events, which inspired the movie, but I don’t feel that I came away from ’The Mothman Prophecies’ with any true understanding of what was going on. Another thing that hurts the film is its strong resemblance to a very long episode of ’The X-Files’, a show which has handled this kind of material much better in the past. This is a beautifully shot movie that offers an intriguing premise, but I predict that most genre fans will be disappointed.

While the movie itself is a let-down, the DVD from Columbia TriStar delivers a very good transfer. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and has been letterboxed at 2.35:1. (A full-frame version of the film is also available on this two-sided DVD.) The image is very sharp and clear, showing grain only in the scenes where Pellington is obviously pushing the gritty look of the film. ’The Mothman Prophecies’ is a very dark film, and this transfer shows this well, displaying true blacks with no distortion or over-saturation. There is no overt artifacting or signs of edge enhancement. The film offers wonderful sound design, which is well-translated by the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The surround sound effects are nearly constant, as various sounds emanate from the speakers to heighten the sense of unease. Also, the LFE response here is very good, mirroring the unhinging of the small town. The only problem is that the center channel has been mixed quite low, and the dialogue is offered drowned out by these other great effects. The only extras on this DVD are the film’s theatrical trailer and a music video from the band Low, directed by Pellington. The DVD booklet does contain info about the real-life events, but a featurette on this would have been much better.