Believe It Or Not!
Thriller Features Giant Moth and Richard Gere
The Mothman Prophecies
Written by John A. Keel and Richard Hatem
Directed by Mark Pellington
Starring Richard Gere, Will Patton, Debra Messing
In order to express how enjoyable this movie is, I have to explain what you may have heard critics and viewers term its “extreme unbelievability.” The storyline, while nerve-wracking on the screen, looks utterly ludicrous on paper and it is pointless to try to make it sound believable. The movie is not for those who write off a movie about the paranormal when a scientific implausibility pops up.
The life of star reporter John Klein (Richard Gere) is going believably swell (as opposed to a typical Hollywood paradise). He suddenly loses it all when he and his wife Mary (Debra Messing) get into a serious car accident that leaves her on her deathbed and John unscathed. The cause of the accident is -- get ready -- the apparition of a giant moth-bat creature right in front of the car.
But wait, it gets interesting. John didn’t see the Mothman, and we only do for a millisecond. The only clue denoting foul play is an odd silver residue on the front of the car. When the Mothman makes his presence known two years later by making John wind up in small Point Pleasant, West Virginia, some 400 miles off course, he finds that this whole town is being haunted by this same monster. After he is satisfied that these natives aren’t as dumb as a sack of hammers, he decides to investigate all these sightings.
More pieces fit into the puzzle, with the Mothman now haunting people’s dreams with tales of future disasters. But, and this is what cancels out all the incredulousness, the puzzle pieces never really come together to give you a clear picture of Mothie’s motives and plans. And no matter what you think of the story so far, deep down inside you want to know why. But Director Mark Pellington is of course not going to give that to you until he spooks you for the next hour and a half with grenades like the Mothman having a voice, and wanting to talk to John.
It may sound like a lousy “X-Files” plot, but just like Chris Carter was able to do in the early seasons, Pellington makes a suspenseful masterpiece out of a summer read. While the story plays out, you are much more interested in what action each character is going to take than running common sense tests on Mothman’s powers.
Foremost in aiding this movie’s cause is Richard Gere, who delivers a likeable and real performance as the Mothman chaser. He shows the emotions and, more importantly, the frailty of his character so the audience can understand his often foolish actions.
Coming in a close second is the amazing camera work. Each setting is transformed to something so perfectly eerie that one can’t even shake the nervous feelings during a town Christmas festival. The eerieness is even kicked up a level in between scenes as audiences are treated with shots that are presumably from the Mothman’s point of view that grow more and more sinister as it plays games with Gere. The only really unbelievable part that will haunt viewers’ minds is the attractive Laura Linney allegedly hailing from small-town West Virginia.
The rest of the movie tends to parallel Pellington’s other work, Arlington Road. The many, many other twists and turns that follow make the movie really begin to creep the hell out of you. While the climactic denouement is a bit more predictable than that of its Arlington Road counterpart (one can probably figure out what will happen five minutes before the scene begins), it still ties most of the loose ends together and leaves the audience pleasantly unsatisfied.
The movie’s ability to suspend its viewers’ disbelief dies immediately when the credits begin to roll. Deeply reflect on the movie for more than a minute and its magic will collapse like a house of cards. But the molehill of plausibility won’t matter when you’re in the theater; the mountain of smart and classy suspense will.