Like a feature-length episode of The X-Files, this film "inspired by true incidents" relies on spooky atmosphere to carry a far-fetched story. John Klein (Richard Gere), a political reporter for The Washington Post, is respected at work and happily married to the beautiful Mary (Debra Messing). Then everything comes crashing down: Driving at night, Mary swerves to avoid something John, in the passenger seat, sees nothing and cracks her head. In the hospital, she's diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, and dies shortly after. Two years later, John is driving to Richmond, Va., to interview an up-and-coming politician, and somehow makes his way to Point Pleasant, a charmless industrial town on the West Virginia-Ohio border, hundreds of miles from his destination. His car breaks down, he has a run-in with a high-strung local (Will Patton) and self-possessed cop Connie Parker (Laura Linney) lets on that odd things have been happening. Sober, level-headed people claim they've seen a man-sized, moth-like creature with piercing red eyes. Telephone lines screech with unexplained static; people are blinded by inexplicable flashes of red light and bleed from their ears and eyes. And their streaky, haunted sketches of the "mothman" look unnervingly like drawings Mary made in the days before her death. Klein sticks around to investigate, and begins to believe the mothman is delivering a warning: Something terrible is going to happen in Point Pleasant. But what, and when? Director Mark Pellington who didn't want to make a monster movie and so keeps the mothman on the periphery does a bang-up job evoking the jitters, the way you feel when you've spooked yourself. Everyday sounds become eerie and threatening, branches scrape at the edges of the frame, shadows and light flares coil themselves into vaguely disturbing shapes and falling leaves seethe with menace; in fact, for a good part of its running time, the film feels like a portrait of a troubled man willing himself to madness. But the creepy set pieces are repetitive and the payoff is rather unsatisfying, even though the prophecies do eventually pan out (in a typically cryptic sort of way). The film's basis on "true events" is shaky: The script is based on The Mothman Prophesies (1975) by the professionally credulous paranormalist John A. Keel, which chronicles a spate of oddball goings-on that preceded a 1967 accident the kind of things that fill "news of the weird" columns on slow news days.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Like a feature-length episode of The X-Files, this film "inspired by true incidents" relies on spooky atmosphere to carry a far-fetched story. John Klein (Richard Gere), a political reporter for The Washington Post, is respected at work and happily married… (more)