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MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
Richard Gere stars as a grieving widower plagued by a mysterious, unseen urban legend known as the Mothman. As the Mothman terrifies a small town, the widower inexplicably finds himself there. The deeper he digs, the clearer the Mothman's purpose appears to be - putting his own life in danger.

Director:
Mark Pellington
Cast:
Richard Gere, David Eigenberg, Bob Tracey, Ron Emanuel
Screenplay:
Richard Hatem, based on the novel by John A. Keel

Tagline:
What Do You See?
Box Office:
Budget $42 million.
Opening weekend $11.208 million on 2331 screens.
Domestic gross $35.228 million.
MPAA:
Rated PG-13 for terror, some sexuality and language.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
2-Disc set
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English, French, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $27.95
Release Date: 5/27/2003

Bonus:
DVD One:
• Audio Commentary with Director Mark Pellington
• Filmographies

DVD Two:
• “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
• Five Deleted Scenes
• “Half Light” Music Video
• Theatrical Trailers


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Mothman Prophecies: Special Editon (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 2, 2003)

At one point during The Mothman Prophecies, our main character travels from Washington, DC to Point Pleasant, West Virginia. He relates that he drove 80 mph the whole way and it should have taken him about six hours to get there. That means the movie posits that Point Pleasant resides more than 400 miles from DC, a concept that seemed wrong to me as I watched it. A lifelong DC-area resident, I didn’t think any part of West Virginia was quite that far from here, though I was incorrect; I checked, and Point Pleasant’s indeed about 417 miles from DC.

I bring this up not because the potential factual gaffe bothered me. Heck, Kate and Leopold presents scads of anachronisms, but they didn’t irritate me. That occurred because I actually enjoyed Kate enough to ignore the errors. In the case of Mothman, however, I felt so bored with the material that I couldn’t help but focus on its possible inaccuracies.

Apparently based on real events, Mothman focuses on the experiences of star Washington Post reporter John Klein (Richard Gere). He seems to live a great life, especially because he and wife Mary (Debra Messing) appear to be totally in love with each other. At the start of the film, they purchase their dream house and everything’s great.

However, on the drive back from this event, Mary thinks she sees some funky winged figure and jerks the steering wheel to avoid this specter who John doesn’t observe. As the car spins, she smashes her head against the window. In and of itself, that injury doesn’t cause critical damage to Mary, but during their examinations, the doctors find a rare brain disorder that soon kills her.

Depressed, John tries to go on with his life, but doesn’t do very well. Still, he continues his job at the Post. One night, he needs to head to Richmond to interview the governor of Virginia, a man with presidential aspirations. Mysteriously, however, John detours and winds up far west of Richmond in Point Pleasant, a town that abuts Ohio.

Further weirdness ensues. John traveled this distance in less than two hours. His car conks out for unknown reasons, and he stops at a rural house to ask for help. However, Gordon Smallwood (Will Patton), one of the residents, becomes bizarrely belligerent when he meets John. Gordon claims that John’s been there for the last two nights at precisely the same time.

The local police get involved via officer Connie Mills (Laura Linney), and the mystery starts to unravel. It appears that many Point Pleasant residents have seen a “mothman” creature similar to the one experienced by Mary, and she begins to actively haunt him. Gordon also gets calls from “Indrid Cold”, who appears to be Mothy him/her/itself. Various vague prophecies emerge from Cold, all of which come true, such as the crash of an airplane. John ignores his job to pursue this mystery and find out what Cold wants with him.

That’s all well and good, but what I couldn’t figure out was how a story with such potential turned into something so relentlessly boring. Oh, the filmmakers make desperate attempts to convey a sense of tensions and anxiety. Mothman features lots of spooky music, edgy effects, and creepy photography. Actually, the movie periodically reminds me of Se7en due to these elements.

However, Se7en provided taut storytelling, effective filmmaking techniques, and strong performances, three things virtually absent from Mothman. Often, the film comes across like a particularly pointless and dull episode of The X-Files. We watch the mystery unfold but it never seems to go anywhere. Matters tie up mildly at the end, but not to a satisfying degree. Perhaps some of this results from the alleged factual basis of the material; the matters remain unresolved, so the filmmakers might have preferred to do the same with their version.

However, there is such a thing as creative liberty, and Mothman could use that. I don’t need Mothy to become a big, bad villain ala Jeepers Creepers, a straight horror flick with a winged critter, but some character definition would be nice. Some greater indication what Cold is/was and what spurred all the events also would have helped. As it stands, the movie simply seems random and vague about everything.

Again, that allows it to more closely resemble real life, where we don’t see everything wrapped up neatly. However, this kind of thriller needs a greater sense of linear storytelling to work. With all of the material so loose, it never inspires much tension or scariness. Mothy remains a weird voice on the phone with little threat. He’s kinda spooky at times, but that’s not much onto which one can hang a movie.

It doesn’t help that much of the film seems obvious. Since Linney’s name came before Messing’s in the credits, I knew that meant one thing: the wife must die! Granted, Mothman doesn’t really try to create a romance between John and Connie, but the events definitely point in that direction. I realized there was no way a movie would feature a babe like Linney along with still-hunky Gere and not let the audience believe love was in the air.

The two show little chemistry, and that goes for the rest of the cast as well. Everyone seems vaguely bored, which means I became infected with the same ennui. They try desperately to get involved in the material, but it lacks enough drive and energy to take them anywhere.

Somewhere buried deep within The Mothman Prophecies, the roots of a good movie reside. This isn’t it, unfortunately. Very little about Mothman stands out as particularly terrible, but the entire film fails to deliver the appropriate levels of apprehension and anxiety. Instead, the flick simply plods along for a couple of hours.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B+ / Bonus A-

The Mothman Prophecies appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although a few small problems appeared, usually Mothman presented a very strong picture.

Sharpness generally seemed excellent. A few wide shots displayed very slight softness, but those examples occurred infrequently. Much of the movie remained nicely accurate and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, but I did notice a little very minor edge enhancement at times. Print flaws seemed almost non-existent. Some light grain popped up at times, but I saw no other examples of defects.

Mothman featured a stylized palette. At times, colors became intentionally cold and stark, whereas other times, the hues were made to seem oversaturated and dense. The DVD handled the various gradations well, as the tones always came across as solid and appropriately defined. Black levels seemed deep and dark, while shadow detail was clear and sensibly heavy without excessive thickness. Overall, The Mothman Prophecies provided a satisfying image.

The Mothman Prophecies also offered a positive auditory experience. The film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seemed fairly heavily oriented toward the front spectrum, but it broadened nicely much of the time. The forward channels showed fine stereo imaging for the score, and they also provided a good sense of general atmosphere. Really, that attitude dominated Mothman. Not many scenes featured direct localization; the bridge collapse worked well in that domain, but it was an exception. Instead, the soundtrack more strongly favored a creepy ambience meant to accentuate the movie’s chills. It didn’t work, but that tone emanated nicely from the surrounds.

Audio quality appeared good. Dialogue always remained natural and distinct, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music seemed bright and vivid, and the score showed solid dynamics and clarity. Effects also came across as accurate and vibrant, and the whole track evidence excellent low-end response at times. When appropriate, the flick demonstrated a very strong bass punch that lacked any boominess or distortion. Ultimately, the mix for The Mothman Prophecies failed to make “A”-level due to its relative lack of multichannel ambition, but the track seemed pleasing nonetheless.

How did the audio and picture of the Mothman special edition compare to those of the original DVD? To these eyes and ears, they seemed virtually identical. I thought the new release might tighten up the picture a little because it required less compression; the prior disc included both widescreen and fullframe versions of the movie, which meant the former was crammed into one side of a single-layered DVD. The extra breathing room didn’t appear to alter the presentation, so the special edition offered the same fairly high quality visuals and sound seen on the previous platter.

While the original release of Mothman included almost no extras, this new two-DVD special edition offers a fair amount of materials. Most appear on the second disc. DVD One provides some rudimentary filmographies for director Mark Pellington, writer Richard Hatem, and actors Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Debra Messing and Will Patton.

The first disc also adds an audio commentary with director Mark Pellington, who offers a running, screen-specific discussion. A fairly low-key presence here, Pellington nonetheless proves to be chatty as he covers many different topics. He relates a little about the origins of the project and he also goes into issues related to working with the actors, technical concerns, and other production areas. However, Pellington mostly concentrates on storytelling subjects as he attempts to elaborate what he wanted to do with the piece. His remarks help flesh out the movie and make it seem somewhat richer, though I must admit he didn’t change my mind about the flick. Pellington’s generally flat demeanor makes the commentary a little tough-going at times, but the director includes enough insight to mean that fans should enjoy his track.

On DVD Two, we get additional pieces. Search for the Mothman gives us an account of the historical record behind the movie. The 43-minute and 35-second program includes archival materials, movie clips, and recent interviews with Mothman and Other Curious Encounters author Loren Coleman, Mothman Prophecies author John Keel, researcher Dan Drasin, eyewitnesses Linda Scarberry, Doris Deweese, Marcella Bennett, Loretta Faye Campbell, Bob Elliott, Everett Wedge, Tom Ury, Charlene Wood and Dottie Campbell, and local residents Keith Aeiker and Ralph Newman. We hear about the overall history of similar incidents before it focuses on the events that allegedly took place in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, starting back in November 1966.

”Search” nicely embellishes the movie, as it offers a fairly interesting examination of the events described by witnesses. It feels a little sensationalistic as it goes for the spooky vibe more than an objective tone, but it goes through the Mothman story in a reasonably clear and concise manner. The information creates a tantalizing tale that actually seems eerier than the movie itself.

Unfortunately, “Search” lacks much of a counterpoint. It appears to buy into the story too heavily and fails to really attempt to debunk the legend. This makes the documentary seem less than objective as it appears to promote the Mothman as a reality. Nonetheless, it works well and is a worthwhile program for those interested in the Mothman.

Next we find a two connected featurettes. Day By Day: A Director’s Journey – The Road In runs for 30 minutes and one second, while Day By Day: A Director’s Journey – The Road Home goes for 30 minutes and two seconds. The break between the two occurs for no apparent reason; “In” doesn’t conclude with some definitive event, and the split seems arbitrary.

Essentially a video diary that focuses on Pellington, “The Road In” starts with preproduction on September 27, 2000, and follows the film through many different facets. We learn of budget problems and watch location scouting, planning for stunts and technical pieces, cast rehearsals, the start of principal photography and the first week of the shoot. “The Road Home” picks up where the prior show left off with Day Nine of filming and follows the shoot. We see lots of tensions over issues like time pressures, crew irritation over Pellington’s changes in shots, problems related to delays due to technical elements, shooting the bridge stunt, and the end of filming. The program formally concludes with a June 2002 valedictory statement from Pellington.

An abnormally blunt and revealing documentary, “Day By Day” doesn’t tell the making of the film in a terribly formal way, but it gives us lots of great glimpses behind the scenes. The biggest lesson learned here? Boy, does Pellington curse a lot! (Strangely, his f-bombs are bleeped in part one, but they fly unaltered during part two.)

Actually, probably the most compelling aspect of “Day By Day” comes from the way it illustrates the enormous pressures put on directors and most members of movie crews. Rather than hide antagonism, the program almost stresses the tension. After a while, I started to wonder if the participants ever didn’t argue. But that’s a welcome relief from the usual happy talk seen in these kinds of programs, and I thought “Day By Day” was an entertaining and informative look at the production of Mothman.

After this we get five Deleted Scenes. Presented non-anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio, the clips last between 75 seconds and four minutes, 26 seconds for a total of 12 minutes, five seconds of footage. The longest depicts a scene similar to the one in Close Encounters where the locals amass to wait for the arrival of UFOs. It expands the relationship between John and Connie but doesn’t go anywhere otherwise.

The four other clips don’t seem much better. One elaborates on a local character affected by the events, while the remaining three provide mood pieces related to John. The best shows his fear after he gets a batch of phone messages at a motel, but the others tend to meander.

We find a music video for “Half Light” by Low with tomandandy featuring Indrid Cold. Created by Mothman director Mark Pellington, the four-minute and 48-second clip ties to the film more closely than most videos in this genre. However, it still uses the tired combination of movie snippets and lip-synched performances by the musicians, so it doesn’t go much of anywhere.

In addition, the DVD includes the movie’s theatrical trailer, which appears in anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. We also find ads for xXx and Formula 51; both receive the same anamorphic 1.85:1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 treatment.

Though the tale has potential, I can’t say that The Mothman Prophecies impresses me. The movie feels too dull and lifeless to ever become anything engaging. The DVD presents very good picture and sound, and this new special edition adds lots of quite interesting supplements.

Due to my lack of enthusiasm toward the movie itself, I can’t recommend The Mothman Prophecies to anyone who doesn’t already know they like the flick. If you don’t own the earlier disc, the special edition is the way to go. Fans who possess the prior release should get the SE if they like supplements. If they don’t care about extras, then they should remain happy with the bare-bones disc, as both seem to provide identical picture and sound quality.

To rate this film visit the original review of THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES.