The Mothman Prophecies – Special Edition
Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment – 2002
Directed by Mark Pellington
Screenplay by Richard Hatem
In the late 60’s, terror struck Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Over the course of 13 months, the small town was besieged with reports of a large flying creature that looked like a man, but had wings and red glowing eyes. At the same time, men wearing black and UFO sittings were reported to frequent the area. It is said that the winged creature that the press called “Mothman” would warn people of upcoming disasters. What all of this meant, to this day nobody knows and whether or not any of it was true is still a mystery. What we do know is 13 months and one day from the first Mothman sighting, the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant collapsed killing 46 people. That is fact.
Filmmaker Mark Pellington approaches this film with passionate focus and incredible restraint, never giving into answering the questions for you. Instead, Pellington lays everything out on the table, minus the men in black & flying saucers, and lets you decide what you think happens. This is a similar approach Peter Weir used when he made PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK. Pellington’s direction is one of the best I’ve seen in the past ten years. He creates a haunting atmosphere that crackles with style and mature storytelling. The story and characters are always the focus but Pellington envelops them with visual creativity. It’s what Pellington doesn’t show you that will rattle your brain and force you to reach deep and even question your beliefs. This is no small feat and something way beyond filmmaking. MOTHMAN is a film that makes you think hard, something some people don’t like to do while watching a film. If you want everything spoon-fed to you, then this is not the movie for you.
After seeing this film, I had to read the book written by John A. Keel. The book was fascinating, but the novel kind of rambles on in a bunch of different directions, ultimately losing story focus. Because of this, the film is a much more thought provoking and entertaining at the same time.
Cinematographer Fred Murphy teams with Pellington to make a picture that is nothing short of spectacular. Lighting is superb with dynamic framing to capture shapes, angle perspective and movement that startle the eye. This is not just excellent filmmaking but special, unique and fresh. Never did I feel like I was just watching another Hollywood blockbuster or by the numbers production. The cast and crew were onto something different and it’s reflected in the movie.
Tomandandy who collaborated on Mark Pellington’s previous film ARLINGTON ROAD, have made a mesmerizing score. It’s completely connected to the film and helps put you into this strange, eerie atmospheric world. Unlike most film scores, the music in MOTHMAN is constantly changing, evolving with numerous sounds and brilliant instrumentation. Tomandandy use electronic sounds and the orchestra with equal importance. The score pulsates and grows to the hair-raising climax, which is pulled off with remarkable artistry.
The casting is dead-on perfect. Debra Messing has a small yet pivotal role as Mary Klein. The beautiful, red head actress immerses herself into the character that suffers a freak accident. The moments she’s in the hospital will make your hair stand up. Richard Gere is actually quite good creating an understated performance as John Klein. The chemistry is strong between Messing and Gere, not to mention his relationship with Laura Linney who plays Sgt. Connie Mills. I love how Pellington never chose to put Richard Klein & Connie Mills in any kind of a sexual situation. That kind of scene would be out of place in this movie. Will Patton is grounded as Gordon Smallwood and the same can be said of Lucinda Jenney as his wife Denise. Alan Bates is a nice casting touch as occult novelist Alexander Leek.
Since I’m such a HUGE fan of THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, I cherished all the extra features on this Special Edition. Day by Day: A Director’s Journey was the first of its kind I’ve seen on DVD. A camera captures much of Mark Pellington’s reactions during pre-production and principal photography. I particularly liked seeing the location scouting and how similar the shooting locations looked in Kittanning, Pennsylvania to Point Pleasant. This video diary is an unfiltered, raw look into this visionary filmmaker’s quest to make a film with artistic merit and I loved it. You feel the frustration, exhaustion and elation of what Pellington must have felt during MOTHMAN. For any aspiring director, this chronicle is priceless.
Search for the Mothman is a solid documentary that essays the history of the title character. It was fascinating seeing photos of Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the late 60’s and the horrible reality of the Silver Bridge disaster. The recent interviews with people who supposedly saw the Mothman back in the 60’s intrigued me. It was strange to hear how the Mothman has been spotted around the world before other catastrophes. You can’t help but think about the genuine possibility of such a creature.
Deleted scenes were interesting but you can see what they were not used. Mark Pellington’s audio commentary was enlightening since I admire his work and love this film.
I enjoyed the music video “Halflight” for the band Low. Pellington directed this video; he uses subliminal text and lighting to achieve a dark swirling mood.
THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES has become one of my all-time favorite films. Every time I watch it, and I can watch it over and over, it gets better. There is so much to MOTHMAN that you are only scratching the surface the first time you view it.