Sony // 2002 // 119 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 11th, 2003
Based on true events
Washington Post reporter John Klein (Richard Gere, An Officer and a Gentleman) and his wife (Debra Messing, TV's Will & Grace) have just bought a new house where, upon inspection, they decide to make love in one of the closets. They're caught by their real estate agent, who then proceeds to charge 4% more on commission for soiling the floors (just kidding). As the two love birds are driving home they're involved in a car accident wherein the Messing character (the driver) thinks she sees a giant red figure resembling Dracula (since we don't get a good look at it we're never very sure). Before she dies in the hospital she whispers "you didn't see it, did you?" to John and draws what appears to be a black, malevolent figure on a piece of paper. The film then flash forwards two years and we see John driving to Virginia. However, he ends up in West Virginia and has no recollection of how he got there. Essentially, he's in the Twilight Zone. It's in the town of Point Pleasant that John meets Gordon (Will Patton, Armageddon) while trying to use his phone to call for help after his car breaks down. Gordon points the gun at him and claims he's been knocking on his door three nights in a row. John has no recollection of this, and the sheriff (Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me) is called in to help settle the situation. As John attempts to piece together what happened to his wife, he begins to hear strange voices, see odd beings, and discover that bizarre happenings have been taking place in Point Pleasant...something that appears to be a "Mothman." Who is this creature that's creating strange premonitions in some of the townsfolk? And what does he want? And don't you have better things to do than watch empty thrillers like this one?
For a complete review of The Mothman Prophecies I'll refer you to our previous review in the DVD Verdict archives. What follows in this review are my brief thoughts on the film, and they are based on a true story: for some reason I kept getting The Mothman Prophecies mixed up with the Kevin Costner thriller Dragonfly (they both came out around the same time). While the stories are different, each utilizes a few of the same basic ideas: the main character's wife has died due to strange circumstances, and as they search for the truth they're pulled into supernatural events that use bugs as symbols (dragonflies and moths). They are also both overly long and unsatisfying thrillers. Richard Gere plays John Klein without much personality -- he seems to have only three emotions: upset, frustrated, and scared. Because the film (and director Mark Pellington, who helmed the much better Arlington Road) wants to rely more on mood instead of characterization, The Mothman Prophecies seems void of any emotional depth. Gere's wife is taken so early in the film that you're never able to establish a connection with her -- in other words, you never really care what happens to her or the rest of the cast. As for the titular "villain," the Mothman is only seen in glimpses and shadows, making him an indifferent enemy -- it's hard to be scared of something that's never really seen (and may only possibly be the size of a butterfly). Much of the movie consists of characters walking around, hearing voices, and crying over lost loves. When the final climax hits -- a bridge collapse over a body of water -- the viewer is left with the feeling that there's a lot of loose ends, and most of them are going to be left dangling. In some cases this might be okay, but not for The Mothman Prophecies (and I have the feeling these "true events" are standing on thin ice). The film is too vague on the powers of old Mr. Mothman (he seems to have the vastness of God, yet we know he's not) and the ending doesn't give us any concrete answers. In fact, the whole thing feels downright disjointed -- what might have been a fascinating meditation on life, death, and what happens afterwards becomes a hollow thriller that is low on scares and even lower on cohesiveness. The first hour of The Mothman Prophecies had me intrigued, but it slowly lost me by the final big budget act. Like the bridge sequence, the film ends up collapsing under its own preposterous weight. Blah.
The Mothman Prophecies: Special Edition is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The original release of this film was decent to begin with, so it's no surprise to find this incarnation to be in the same category -- in fact, I'm pretty sure this is the exact same transfer as the previous release. The flesh tones and colors are all accurately rendered and solid with black levels evenly dark. There is a slight amount of edge halo in a few key scenes, though otherwise this transfer is in excellent shape. No imperfections, grain, or dirt were spotted anywhere in the image. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. Much like the video transfer, this sound mix is the same as the previous DVD edition. This is a nice dynamic mix that features a ton of directional effects and surround sounds. If nothing else, The Mothman Prophecies features a fine sound mix with all kinds of eerie, creepy sounds throughout. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Of course, the big question you've got to ask yourself is: why did The Mothman Prophecies deserve a double dipped special edition? Like the story, we're never quite sure, but here it is anyhow. What fans start with is a mildly engaging commentary track by a monotone Mark Pellington discussing his camera work, the story, and the casting. "Search for the Mothman" is a nearly hour long look at the supposed "real" Mothman with eyewitness telling their stories. It feels a bit thrown together, though it does shed some light on the movie's origins. "Day by Day: A Director's Journey" is a two part featurette that takes us into the pre-production and shooting of the film, a fine look at what goes on behind the scenes at a movie shoot. This was the best feature on the disc and is a must for those who want to learn a little more about the production of a movie. Finally there are five deleted scenes (each presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) that are bland and don't amount to much, a music video by the band Halflight, and a few various theatrical trailers.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Commentary by Director Mark Pellington
* "Search for the Mothman" Documentary
* "Day by Day: A Director's Journey -- The Road In" Featurette
* "Day by Day: A Director's Journey -- The Road Home" Featurette
* Half Light Music Video
* Five Deleted Scenes
* Official Site