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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Mothman Prophecies

A creepy story of foreshadowed disasters

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 16, 2002 -- "The Mothman Prophecies" is a creepy tale of the occult that gets the mood just right. It cleverly never shows the Mothman creature, or reveals much about it. Unfortunately, that tactic denies the audience the opportunity to howl with laughter at the big, bad moth.

The movie begins with some message to the effect that the film is based on real events. It should have said, based on wild rumors, or based on legends, because it is not based on real events, not if those events involve a creature called a Mothman. Apparently there are actual Mothman legends (there are links to more information on this below). The probable basis for them is Tyto alba, the common barn owl, according to an investigator for the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

The film stars Richard Gere of "Autumn in New York" as John Klein, a reporter for the Washington Post. After his wife dies, he finds himself driving into West Virginia one night, some 400 miles from where he thought he was. There, he hears tales of strange, X-Files kinds of happenings in the small town of Point Pleasant, including Rorschach ink blot-type drawings of the Mothman. He recognizes the drawings as very similar to those his late wife had drawn before she died.

Intrigued, Klein begins to investigate the weird happenings around Point Pleasant. At first, townspeople are suspicious of Klein. One of them with the unmanly name of Gordon Smallwood (effectively played by Will Patton of "Remember the Titans"), waves a shotgun in Klein's direction. Klein should have been wearing one of those Society of Professional Journalist t-shirts which reads, "Trust me, I'm a reporter." Despite their suspicions, the townspeople quickly become very friendly with Klein, and they start telling him all their deepest secrets. Klein, who isn't very skeptical for a reporter, begins to believe there is a Mothman, and that the creature is warning people about an impending disaster.

The Mothman, taking notes from the astrologer's book of vague predictions, never gives a definite warning, rather it is a fuzzy one, something about a tragedy on the Ohio River. This is typical of the occult and the supernatural. There is never any clear evidence of stuff like Bigfoot, UFO aliens or Mothman. Evidence, if any, is always anecdotal and ephemeral. While the legend if the Mothman is, on the surface, silly, the movie is constructed well enough that the audience is drawn into the story. One thing that bothered me was that Klein never writes the story of the Mothman. It is impossible to believe a good newspaper reporter would pass up a story this good. He could have written it under a pseudonym and sold the story to the National Enquirer.

Richard Gere does a fine job with the leading role, getting able support from Laura Linney and Will Patton. Director Mark Pellington ("Arlington Road") does a good job of advancing the story and making it seem a lot more credible than it really is. He also does a good job of establishing just the right atmosphere of creepiness and mystery. The story is based on the novel by John A. Keel. The screenplay is by Richard Hatem ("Under Siege 2: Dark Territory"). This is a well-constructed suspense film. The filmmakers make some smart choices, like not showing the creature and not explaining what it is. There are some hints that the Mothman might be a kind of angel, but nothing is spelled out. Instead, it is left to the viewer's imagination, and that is the way it should be. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2002 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)