The Mothman Prophecies


‘…a more than decent genre time-passer that just about escapes from the shadow of a goofy title…’

That title needs to go for a start; I guess we like stories about spidermen, and batmen, but mothmen, maybe not so much. So Mark Pellington’s 2002 supernatural thriller is up against it straight out of the gate; it needs to be good to compensate for that title, and remarkably, it’s far better than might be expected. Richard Gere plays a reporter looking into the legend of the mothman, who appears like an angel of death before tragedy strikes, and the whole film plays like an X Files episode, with Gere and Laura Linney daring to believe in forces outwith their understanding.

Gere brings commendable gravity to the role of Washington Post columnist John Klein, whose wife (Debra Messing) dies in a car crash, claiming to have seen a moth-like figure before her death. Years later, Klein goes to West Virginia’s Point Pleasant, where a number of locals have had similar hallucinations. Is there a rational explanation, or is something very bad about to afflict a number of innocent people? With local cop Connie Mills (Linney) in tow, Klein uncovers Alexander Leek (Alan Bates) an expert in the paranormal who warns him to stay away from the area, but Klein is drawn to the impending tragedy like an, erm, moth to a flame.

Pellington’s film claims to be based on true events, but ones that are easily discredited; that said, The Mothman Prophecies builds up a decent head of steam before a nightmarish finale, largely due to good acting from Gere, Linney, Bates and Will Patton. Credibility may be in short supply, but that’s not a problem while the drama plays out, with Klein helpless to prevent a Final Destination-style carnage. And Gere in particular excels; here’s been a great and enduring star, from musicals (Chicago) to indie drama (Time Out of Mind) to rom-coms (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride), he’s kept working and does well with some tense scenes here.

Horror films don’t usually have this kind of slick production, but it’s good production values that keep this film afloat; while the story sounds silly in retrospect, The Mothman Prophecies is a more than decent genre time-passer that just about escapes from the shadow of a goofy title. Link below.


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  1. RE Mothman, a psychological supernatural Fortean mystery that intrigued me, I agree it should have been promoted as a film partly inspired by real events (Point Pleasant sightings, Silver bridge collapse). And the poster inkblot and title was silly. Blame the name on a copyeditor that didn’t want to use a Batman moniker-popular at the time. Keels suggested book title was Year of the Garuda (Hindi flying apparition). Back story: While Keel was investigating UFOish reports in 1966-67 for a Playboy article & future book Operation Trojan Horse (pub 1970), he became intrigued by strange occurrences in Point Pleasant, WV. As an occult scholar, I enjoyed this adaptation.

    Ah, wacky WV, with a Swiss village in Randolph County, Lewisburg Caves and Batboy, a mystery hole in Anstead, Chief Keightuga (Cornstalk) cursed bones in Point Pleasant, and Adena burial mounds in Moundsville. It’s also home to petroleum and chemical refineries, coal mines, serial killers (including Manson family members), & a high number of diverse disasters and Industrial Age ghost towns.
    Some say Point Pleasant was established near site of old 1700s fort and cursed by Chief Cornstalk, a mighty warrior overwhelmed by colonial guns. After his defeat, his bones rested near the fort until 1840 when they were removed to Mason County Court House grounds. In late 1950’s, a new court house was built in and chief’s remains (3 teeth and 15 pieces of bone) were reinterred in a corner of Tu-Endie-Wei Park, next to the grave of a VA frontiersman Cornstalk once fought. Did he curse the area as many claimed or send leathery, headless bird men to guard his remains?

    The Red eyed, ‘day glow’ beings encountered messed with electricity, or had electro magnetic abilities. Dozens of people would report their radios and TVs would blank out or have strange interference during sightings. Or were other factors to blame like 100 leaky TNT concrete bunkers? Crypto author Loren Coleman said there’s a history of strange lore surrounding OH, KY, & WV. This is part of Appalachia.
    Local Native American tribes chronicled stories about Thunderbirds–large “bird-men”, harbingers of woe and forewarnings, giant owls, and mutant creatures. Indian tribes avoided big swatches of WV, despite it being fertile, heavily wooded, rich in game. Who built the circular cairns and monuments?

    Keel was a radio/ TV scriptwriter, world traveler, syndicated journalist, and UFO investigator, who maintained these sightings/beings came from an alt dimension. Keel grew up reading Charles Fort, Amazing Stories, and uFO news clips. He coined terms ultra terrestrial, MIB, and earth-Disneyland of the gods. In Mothman, he addressed the question of ‘what happens when sane, reasonable people are faced with the unbelievable…with Banshee’esque harbingers of death? He concluded most can’t fathom the paranormal or decipher clues. He admits he initially misread what he discovered. He was in NY when the WV Silver bridge collapsed, expecting to report on a blackout that didn’t happen. In the movie, Geer is on the bridge, experiencing the event. Also, Alexander Leek, his counterpoint (investigator) is Keel spelled backwards.
    My pointy hat is off to the creators of a movie that leaves room to question, that causes some to keep glancing backwards, others to giggle then look confused. It’s just a movie, just a story…or did the Mouthless eaglemen in Beastmaster come to Point Pleasant to warn locals? What about those actual reports of piles of animal and human bones found in nearby woods since the 1800s? Prophecy or surreal mystery to a T?…

    • Needed a clear day to get to grips with this great comment, thanks so much for writing! This is an interesting film that’s somehow not quite part of the Hollywood machine, in that it deals with something more than ‘just’ ghosts and jump scares, or a lore specifically created for the film. Instead we connect up with real folk-lore, and that’s an incongrous but heady connection.. This film is adapting real people (Keel/Leek) and real events (the bridge disaster) in a knowing way, challenging us to figure out not whether the events depicted are true or not, but what they might mean if they were. I did a little reasearch into Silver Bridge, but your knowledge puts mine to shame. It’s one of my pet peeves that when someone sees a supernatural event in a film, it rarely changes their worldview other than acceptance or denial. This movie offers something different in that line, with characters struggling to accept something they cannot understand. No Hollywood producer would dream up a ‘mothman’ even with the backstory you so brilliantly unfold; to me, this keys into the banshee notion, and into something primal that exists in many cultures…this comment is a feather in your pointy hat, I salute you!

  2. Lol…a nearly yep…gotta love that expression! 😂😂 Anyways, I completely agree with you! I think this is a very underrated movie, and one that I highly enjoyed. It’s got a few nice surprises and twists and turns, and the acting was quite decent as well, which is of course no real surpise. Very good review! Enjoyed it, and definitely wants me to revisit this one again!😀

    • Thank you for this positive, helpful comment! This movie was better than I expected, and it worth flagging up as a classy horror piece…

  3. I always thought of this as an extended X-Files episode without Mulder and Scully.
    I also never cared for Julia Roberts, who I associated with Pretty Woman, which co-stars Gere. So my apathy for her rubbed off onto him and since his name and face are predominant for this movie, I never looked into it.

    Isn’t it odd how associations work?

    • I don’t know why Richard Gere would even bother getting out of bed in the morning, given that he’s forever tainted in your mind by his association with Julia Roberts….

      • Well, I never told the poor guy, so he doesn’t know. I figured why blight an already tainted actor? He has enough problems to deal with without having to know that I don’t care about him.

        • I went to see him talk about his career a few years back and he was saying it was very hard for him to have a career due to your lack of interest and encouragement…

          • Oh man, he found out? The poor guy! That would certainly explain why I’ve not seen him try to make a poorly organized comeback.

            I take no responsibility though. He’s a man, let him man up.

              • That sounds rather shallow to be honest. I’m surprised he hasn’t burned out yet then. And surprisingly, there have been no assassination attempts on me. I’m used to Revenge taking a more direct form than “I’m going to ACT anyway”.

                I guess I just don’t understand the actor artists’ mind :-/

  4. I didn’t think the title was that bad. Seemed kind of mysterious and sinister. Might make you think of that death moth from Silence of the Lambs. I mean, if they’d gone with dung beetle I’ll admit they would have had a problem.

    • No, I find moths funny, and moth men even funnier, and I’m amazed they could keep a straight face making this.

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