May contain spoilers
Some people, perhaps most people go through life not really wondering about much. They go to work, punch the clock and then go home and do it all again the next day. But what about the ostensibly small percentage of people that seem to think, like Neo from the Matrix did, that there is just something not quite right with the world we inhabit? These people have a slightly askewed perspective of what is right, what is wrong and how it all comes together. These are the people that are always asking why? Why does something happen and in the greater scheme of things, how does it all matter? Is there really a reason for everything or do some things just happen....because?
The Mothman Prophecies is a riveting story about how some people seem just slightly ahead of the rest of us. It is a story of trusting your feelings and not going mad or getting committed in the process. And finally it is one of the scariest films I have ever seen. Make no mistake about that.
Based on true events.
I read an article that stated that this is a film that Hollywood actually had to tone down. In most cases, when film makers get a hold of material, they have to beef it up to make it more palpable for an audience. But this is just the opposite. Mark Pellington had to simmer some of the events in the film because he felt that if they actually filmed what was purportedly claimed, the audience would not believe the absurdity those events. If that is the case, it frightens me to think what was left out because as it stands, this film is on the brink of utter temerity. There is a head first slide into the bizarre and the film never fails to literally chill your bones. No film that I can think of, and that includes my favourites like Jaws, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, has made me feel as helpless, insignificant or as small as this film does.
Richard Gere plays John Klein, which one can only assume is really a character based on the novelist John A. Keel, who wrote about the events the film is based on. He is a Washington Post reporter who has just bought a new house with his wife, whom he loves very much. After a horrible car accident, his wife is hospitalized and just before she dies, she draws numerous pictures of what can only be described as an evil looking moth like creature, or perhaps even the Angel of Death. She begs the question to John, "You didn't see it did you?" Which begs the question to us, why not?
Soon after, John ends up in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and has no recollection of arriving there. Here he meets Sgt. Connie Parker, played by Laura Linney and Gordon and Denise Smallwood, two of the locals. Soon after he arrives, strange things begin to happen and shortly he and Connie become entangled in an imbroglio with mysterious implications. Many of the locals claim they have seen something similar to what John's wife drew just before her death. And Gordon, played with pure twilight zonesque manerisms by Will Patton, seems to be the most affected by this phenomenon. He begins to hear voices, predicts future disasters, and finally claims to have met a mysterious figure. All the while Klein begins to see and hear unexplainable things. And here in, in my opinion, lies the key to the film.
Mark Pellington, John A. Keel and screenwriter Richard Hatem, seem to explore the subliminal irrational workings of the unknown. There are too many subtle, yet distinct elements that show up in the film. But they are not at the surface, they are just beneath. They're in front of our eyes the whole time, but only if you look hard enough. Much of this film deals with paranormal activities and the paranoid revelations of the people in one town. But it doesn't stop there. Klein is from a town six hours away and eventually he seeks the opinion of a man in Chicago who wrote a book that claims he felt the same things. So there are people that have experienced these unexplainable phenoms all over the country. And this is where the film goes off into a level that I have never seen before.
In order for people to have seen this figure or to be able to comprehend it, the film suggests that there has to be an open mind. As an old proverb once said, "the mind is like a parachute, it only works if you open it." Klein seems to have his eyes and mind wide open after his wife's death. He hasn't quite let go of her and this somehow enables him to communicate with whatever it is that is out there. There are times when whatever it is seems ripe with duplicity but more times than not, whatever this figure says, what he predicts, what he prophecises, it comes true. Klein's wife's death marks the nascency of his exploration into the abnormal.
The theory of the unknown is what is dissected in such infintismal but succinct ways, that on a first viewing, you may not recognize them. We hear stories about people being committed to psyche hospitals because of their failed attempted interpretations. We hear of people that claim they are being watched by a higher being, but feeling this is not really God-like and not really evil. It is just an entity. We see people predict future disasters, we see dreams that prophecize death. And all the while, these people are looked upon as being pariahs. It is much easier to get up, go to work and watch television than it is to think and perhaps accept the fact that there is something just beyond our control that lurks in murky places in our minds. There is even further sublime evidence that the director and writers feel this way. There are constant anomalous images filmed with an ethereal glance. These are images that we now take for granted without batting an eyelash. Things like phones, televisions, pictures and electricity are all given to us in metaphoric and literal glimpses. The creators of this film seem to be telling us that if we can believe in the use of technology, technology like capturing a moment in time on a piece of paper or if we can receive someone's voice transmitting hours away through a few cords and wires, then why is it preposterously inconceivable that Dark Angels or Mothmen really do exist? Perhaps, like the film tells us, they only exist to those of us that can open our stagnant minds a little more than the next person.
More times than can be counted, horror films insult us with loud computer generated noises and blood that seeps from the walls and CG monsters that chase characters that no one cares about. It is easier to make a horror movie like the modern version of the Haunting or the modern version of 13 Ghosts. Those are paint by number horror flicks that require no thought and no effort. But when you get a master like Shyamalan and now Pellington, creators that are intransigent in their beliefs and vision, it creates pictures that not only scare you to your very soul, they create pictures that open your eyes and minds to whole other possibilities. Mark Pellington has now proven to me that he is a master. Arlington Road was a surprising film that left you paralyzed with fear and your mind spewing questions long after the curtains came up. The Mothman Prophecies (especially for horror fans) will invoke discussions long after the lights come on. I realize this review may be a little long but this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes all that can be discussed in the film. There is a whole other religious element to the movie that hasn't even been explored. For instance, notice that both major events in the film happen on Christmas Eve. Why?
One final note to critics that lambaste this film for all of it's so called short comings. True, this film does not offer an explanation or a true conclusion to what took place. But isn't that just the perfect note for it to end on? According to the prophet-like character, Alexander Leek, you are not supposed to understand this phenom. He tells Klein that you will go mad trying to figure it out. This is the only way to end the film. In a lesser film with an inferior director and writer, this film would have culminated with Klein and Connie finding some ancient manuscript in the basement of the library that tells them how to destroy it. They would have went to hallowed ground and summoned it and gotten rid of it. But this is not the tenth sequel of Friday the 13th and this certainly isn't ( with all due respect to Miner and Cunningham) Steve Miner and Sean Cunningham. This is an astute director teamed with a cunning and observant writer who believe in the pulchritude and darkness of the story and give it the respect that it deserves. This is not only one of the best horror films I have ever seen, it is one of the best films I have experienced in my 30 years. This is the pinnacle of film making from all parties involved.
10 out of 10.....A MASTERPIECE BY A MASTER OF MANIPULATION
***One final note. I just wanted to give special mention to the entire sound crew who did such a brilliant job with this film. Pellington and Hatem collaborated beautifully to give me one of the most harrowing experiences I have been privy to in a theater, but the film would not have been quite as pulse pounding if it weren't for the sound team. Kelly Cabral, Pud Cusack, Claude Letessier, David Parker, Ross Simpson and Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz working with musical composers Tom Hajdu, Andy Milburn and Jeff Rona created some of the creepiest sounds and musical overtures in quite some time. When you think of great music and sounds from the horror genre, you think of Carpenter's eerie piano piece from Halloween, Charles Bernstein's dream-like haunting score from Nightmare On Elm Street and John Williams ominous cello from Jaws. This is on par with all of those. And even though this team of musicians may never know it, your work is appreciated by all of who love horror films. Thanks.