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::Authentic, Stylish but unnecessarily indulgent::
Jul 01, 2003 02:01 AM 2616 Views
(Updated Jul 07, 2003 07:45 PM)





Supernatural. How do you define it. Or is it really definable? To some its something ghost-like, something paranormal, something out of the constraints of their physical entities…to some, it’s a harrowing experience, a never-seen-before incident…and to some, much more…Here’s a film that explores some of the instances when real and supernatural worlds tried to make some weird contacts with even weirder results. Read more to find out.

.::The Plot::.

John Klein (Richard Gere) is an ace reporter leading a happily married life with his wife Mary (Debra Messing). The film starts off with John and Mary on a lookout for a new home, but on their way back, Mary (who’s driving) witnesses a strange red, bat-like creature suddenly descending with great speed on their car leaving her completely petrified. Mary gives up her life a few days after the incident for being detected with a rare brain tumour. On her bedside, John finds her personal diary filled with rough but evidently bloody sketches of moths which leaves John completely flabbergasted, and his search for the mystery behind his wife’s death begins, but on an unexpected note.

In a confused state of mind, John drives towards Richmond, but is strangled mid-way by his car. A knock on the nearby door, and he’s welcomed with a shot-gun, and actually recognised to be somebody else by the house-owners Gordon (Will Patton) and Denise Smallwood (Lucinda Jenney). Enter police officer Connie Mills (Laura Linney) who informs John of the strange sightings and incidents that the townfolk have been experiencing of late.

John actually finds out that he’s some 400 miles away from Washington D.C., in Point Pleasant in West Virginia (though he doesn’t remember how he reached there). With Connie, John actually visits each of those individuals who have had a similar experience with the winged creature as his wife and soon realises that the whole community is paralysed by fear of this horror. Townsfolk have experienced everything from strange visions, terrifying premonitions and the feeling that something is watching them, waiting for a disaster to strike.

Curiosity takes John to a renowned author of supernatural stuff-Alexander Leeks (Alan Bates), who tells him that the ancient creature is actually known by the name of Mothman. Meanwhile, the Mothman very strangely, is quite frequent with Gordon (and is giving him future prophecies of people dying each of which comes true the next day) and in the process, John actually talks to the Mothman once who introduces himself as Indrid Cold. Indrid Cold warns John that something terrible is going to happen on River Ohio, which John, along with Connie interprets as the doom of the chemical plant on the banks of the river. The plant, to John’s horror, is intact and soon enough, John feels his resolve in investigating about the Mothman loosening (which results in his throwing away all the research material).

A strange death, a strange sighting of his wife, a message, a mysterious call (which John ignores) and a disaster is what brings this movie to an end. Are John’s and Connie’s fears real? Does the Mothman really exist? If it does, why does it torment people? For clues to these questions, watch the movie.

.::The Direction, Script and Technicalities::.

The Mothman Prophecies is based on true-events which took place in West Virginia in 1966-1967 (details can easily be found at Actually the film’s sole strength is its authentic script. A never-seen-before subject, yet mirroring real life incidents does give the viewer some creeps. Except this, it is actually difficult to find any other department that deserves special mention.

Direction by Mark Pellington is quite routine. Basically, the director hasn’t got much to do. Some incidents have been thrown in, which are connected courtesy the protagonist John, and that’s it. Though the environment being created is definitely praiseworthy, the film actually looks quite confused and tangled in its own concept. Too much is left for viewer’s imagination and the story towards the end completely lacks any coherence whatsoever. For example, John’s strange mannerisms (like observing himself banging to the mirror, looking behind sitting alone in a park, looking on the road while walking is unexplained). More so, the real crux of the story, the Mothman also is highly superficial. Neither is the Mothman’s characteristics and mannerisms delved into nor is his interactions with Gordon and John explained. Ditto for the prophecies made by the Mothman—what tells it about the future? What use is it for him to convey these predictions to humans? Though there’s an attempt here and there suggesting about its characteristics (like Mothman’s tapped conversation being recognised to be of a frequency of an electrical signal), you actually are left imagining for rest of the part.

Compliments should be given where they are due. The film is quite stylishly canned. Be it the colossal zoom over-head shots or the moving shots, they clearly are the essence of the film. Each of the shots where sightings of Mothman are covered are in a class of their own, and do have a lingering effect. The ample usage of blindingly bright light in instances of victimisation in an otherwise stark film does produce the desired creepy effect. The cinematographer’s command over the subject and skill can be evidently seen in his coverage of a grand destruction scene of the Silver Bridge towards the climax (probably the film’s best scene!)

Ditto for the background score by music duo Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn who very effectively create an environment of paranoia and confusion through their low-octave sounds. The Mothman’s shrills are fantastically canned. Dialogues are absent for most part of the film (good for dumbos like me) as the crew is busier creating the eerie environ. Editing is alright, though the film stretches mid-way and needs to be trimmed by atleast 10 minutes (its 114 minutes as of now).

.::The Acting::.

An otherwise stone-faced Richard Gere churns in a believable performance, and thankfully doesn’t sleepwalk through the main role. Laura Linney and Debra Messing look awesome but have little else to do. Will Patton is superb as Gordon while Alan Bates is just about okay as Leek (blame it on the sketchy characterisation).

.::To sum up::.

The Mothman Prophecies is too slow to be termed a thriller, and has too few a chills to be bracketed as a horror movie. It actually falls in one of those psychological documentaries that have been stylishly shot and nothing more. Its been made unnecessarily complicated with myriad, inconsequential instances that do little else than to confuse the viewer. The film, as a result, comes out as highly unresearched and unfocussed.

Alright, I’ll make it easier. You all must be familiar with Cadbury’s Eclairs. Now, Eclairs doesn’t appeal to everybody. Some hate its outer sticky caramel portion and spit it out instantly, while others love to bite and chew till they have got to the chocolatey centre. In any case, the toffee’s lingering flavour can’t be denied. It’s the same with this flick. Its quite alright for those loony Monday evenings when there’s nothing better to do and you just want something to flow. If you are on a lookout for some conclusive, coherent thriller, please look elsewhere, for though the Mothman Prophecies chills and appeals in pieces, as a complete film, it disappoints.

Just Recommended. Notice the word Just.

©Karan 2003

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