The Mothman Prophecies

Get this: Richard Gere, playing Washington Post reporter John Klein, is in a car with his wife, Mary (Debra Messing), at the wheel. She swerves, the car crashes, and in the hospital her last words — that's right, call Will, they kill off Grace — are, "John, you didn't see it, did you?" See what? The Mothman, dude — look at the title. John's search for answers leads him to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where Sgt. Connie Parker (lovely Laura Linney in dowdy Fargo garb) tells John that the locals have been spotting a six-foot flying creature with huge red eyes. Then there are those weird phone calls from alien voices warning of impending catastrophes.

Where does Hollywood find this stuff? In this case, screenwriter Richard Hatem based the film on the best seller by John A. Keel that detailed the strange occurrences in Point Pleasant from 1966 to December 15th, 1967, when the town's Silver Bridge collapsed, drowning forty-six people, after which the sightings and messages stopped.

How do you make a movie of that? Director Mark Pellington, who juiced the suspense so effectively in 1999's Arlington Road, essentially decided not to. He sets the film in the present and refuses to let us see the mothman, in the name of plumbing psychological depths that you just don't get in creature features. Too bad. Until the bridge collapse, which is scarily staged, this mumbo-jumbo plays like The X Files on Prozac. No wonder the actors look narcotized.

From The Archives Issue 889: February 14, 2002