Directed by Mark Pellington, starring Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton, Alan Bates, Deborah Messing.
John Klein (Gere) is a successful reporter who patrols the political beat in Washington DC. After living in the city for many years, he and his wife Mary (Messing) feel the time is right for a move out to fresher air. They view a Georgetown house one night and, deciding it's their dream home, begin the trip back to the city. As Mary drives and Klein jokes in the passenger seat, a shape appears in front of the windscreen, forcing her to swerve and hit a tree. Klein is uninjured but the unconscious Mary is rushed to hospital. As the doctors treat her, they discover that she has a rare brain condition. Despite chemotherapy, she passes away with Klein haunted by her sickbed words "You didn't see it did you?"
The question gathers greater significance when, removing Mary's affects from the hospital, Klein finds a sketchpad of haunting images. Still buried in his grief two years later, Klein sets out one night to travel to West Virginia for an interview the following day. His car breaks down and he seeks help in a nearby house where he is greeted by a man with a shotgun who claims that the journalist has visited his house for the past two nights. And when the police arrive Klein's sense of unease only grows: he's not in Richmond, Virginia – he's in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, over 400 miles from his destination.
Based on real life tragic events in Point Pleasant in the 1960's, which became the subject of John Keel's book of the same name, 'The Mothman Prophecies' mixes fact and fiction to create a superior supernatural thriller which takes an eerie, almost hypnotic look at the big questions hovering around people's lives.
Director Mark Pellington's debut, 'Arlington Road' was a decent but overlooked conspiracy thriller which housed terrorism in suburbia and 'Mothman' pulls off a similar feat, giving generic smalltown USA an atmosphere of simmering menace and danger. It's superbly shot, with bloody reds and icy winter blues combing with a trance soundtrack and out-there sound effects to conjure up the feeling that there'll be no happy ending or even redemption for John Klein. "Do you remember the last time you were happy?" asks a character at one point. Your answer will be the minute before you sat down in your seat.
While Gere has more than his share of detractors, it's safe to say that this is the best thing he's done in years. His dead-eyed, hurt expression lends itself perfectly to the story of a reporter who finds himself becoming the story when he decides to stay in Point Pleasant and unravel the mystery, helped in his quest by local cop Connie Parker (Linney). And while most men would say they'd gladly hang around in a one-diner town if Linney was dressed up in a cop's uniform, Pellington resists playing up the romantic elements, a move which just re-enforces the dislocation that the characters feel.
At 113 minutes, 'The Mothman Prophecies' could have benefited from an extra half-hour, given that the scares are so good and the relationship between Gere and Alan Bates as a disturbed supernatural expert is poor and underdeveloped. But while some may argue that the ending is a little too spectacular for the film's low-key feel, the fact that the denouement really did occur in Point Pleasant just makes you all the more uneasy when you leave the cinema.
An unexpected treat and one destined to enjoy a late night video audience for many years to come.