IS THE “MOTHMAN” GONNA FLY?

CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Steve Rhodes (internetreviews.com), Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly), Sean P. Means (Salt Lake Tribune), Michæl Dequina (filmthreat.com), Carla Meyer (San Francisco Chronicle), Chuck Rudolph (matineemag.com), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Paul Clinton (CNN.com), Rod Armstrong (reel.com) ^ * * * * (out of five stars)
Insects can be pretty creepy. Movies about big insects that can predict the future can be even creepier. Hence we have The Mothman Prophecies.
The movie is about happily married Washington Post writer John Klein (Richard Gere) who loses his wife in a car accident. A few years later, his car breaks down in Point Pleasant, a small town in West Virginia, where some townspeople claim to have seen an eight-foot tall moth-like being. Klein investigates and discovers the mothman predicts future disasters and this over-sized insect may have a connection to his wife’s death. The movie is based on true events, and when you leave the theater, you might wish this were all fiction.
Steve Rhodes (internetreviews.com) complains, “No matter how many times he shoots scenes through red filters, Mark Pellington (ARLINGTON ROAD) can’t make us care enough to attempt to decipher who or what the Mothman is. The only thing that we’re sure of is that we were going to have to endure almost two entire hours of this hokum.”
Okay, Steve. I agree. The Mothman Prophecies could easily clip 30 minutes of screen time, but the mystery and mood of the film is what made it worthy to watch. Pellington’s visual experience saved this film – period. I mean, let’s face it. A movie about a Mothman named Indrid Cold? Sounds silly. But Pellington created an eerie atmosphere that kept my eyes and ears seriously glued to the movie. It gave me the willies! Other critics appreciated the film’s ambiance, too:
– “Pellington, with his quietly off-kilter compositions and hairpin-turn editing, makes even a midnight phone call feel like a message from beyond.” Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly)
– “Director Mark Pellington adeptly rewires the audience’s spinal columns with startling images, nearly subliminal cuts and a nerve-jangling feeling of overarching doom.” Sean P. Means (Salt Lake Tribune)
– “Pellington effortlessly commands all aspects of the cinema language–lighting, camerawork, photography, music and sound design–to create a consistent, dread-filled feeling of some dark presence lingering, lurking about, whether physical or metaphysical, human or inhuman.” Michæl Dequina (filmthreat.com)
There are some critics who didn’t get enough of the mothman. Carla Meyer (San Francisco Chronicle) said, “Since the mothman made it into the title, a little bit more of the menacing insect would have been nice.”
Oh, sure, Carla. Let’s take every horror movie cliché and make this movie into the “same old, same old.” This isn’t “Frankenstein Meets the Mothman” for crying out loud! The idea of a mothman is silly enough, but Pellington brilliantly brought this creature to life by not giving him too much breathing time in the film.
Chuck Rudolph (matineemag.com) got it right: “What makes this visibly aggressive approach welcome is that it works entirely towards implication and suggestion; merely being allowed to experience Indrid Cold through a hushed telephone conversation, as opposed to viewing him outright, makes his presence that much more effective.”
Though Indrid Cold’s presence stays with you when the film finally ends, Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) didn’t like the movie’s conclusion (or lack of). He complained that since the mothman still exists, the movie’s happy ending didn’t settle the story. “It’s lazy for a movie to avoid solving one problem by trying to distract us with the solution to another.”
Lazy, Roger? How so? The film is based on a true story and according to the story the mothman still exists. There is no conclusion to this mysterious being. Paul Clinton (cnn.com) got it right: “If you like your movies wrapped up tightly in a bow, with a solid conclusion, look elsewhere. Supernatural? Metaphysical? Spiritual? Take your pick. But one thing you can count on – ‘The Mothman Prophecies’ is definitely creepy.”
Creepy indeed! The notion that such a being may exist keeps you alert as you make your way out theater doors into the dark of night. Mothman has a rather haunting effect on you.
Rod Armstrong (reel.com) summed the movie up best: “It’s not a great movie – it’s somewhat clumsy and too lethargically paced – but its story about a mysterious creature with psychic abilities offers a solid build-up, a terrific climax, and some nice chills along the way.”
The idea of a psychic insect may seem grounded in stupidity, but Mark Pellington’s brilliant direction makes The Mothman Prophecies fly. ^ –CRITIC DOCTOR
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Posted on February 1, 2002 in Features by
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