The Mothman Prophecies
Director: Mark Pellington. Cast: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton, Debra Messing, Lucinda Jenney, Alan Bates. Screenplay: Richard Hatem (based on the novel by John A. Keel).

The Mothman Prophecies offers a new twist on the supernatural thriller genre for which I can't think of a recent parallel, but which is nonetheless wholly unwelcome. In the early sequences, Mr. Pretty Woman marries Ms. Will & Grace, but the frisky energy of their new-couplehood is shattered by a devastating car accident. Though hubby John Klein is mostly unharmed, his wife Mary is briefly in a coma. Her re-emergence into consciousness brings its own traumas: she can't stop drawing, thinking about, and eventually confessing to strange, terrible visions of a dark, red-winged entity, a "moth-man," that she believes assaulted the car moments before its crash. After whispering and perhaps raving a few stray details, Mary dies.

What is bizarre and almost petulant on the movie's part is that Mary's secrets all but die with her. Sure, creepy stuff keeps happening. John keeps finding himself hundreds of miles away from home in the middle of the night, driving rural routes and ringing the doorbell of an ostensible stranger who insists he has seen John before—on the very previous evening. Director Mark Pellington (Arlington Road, Going All the Way) cuts to some David Lynch-ish close-ups of telephones that ring at inexplicable times, and Laura Linney trudges through, in the least flattering cop outfit since Fargo, to calm down her male co-star in her intermittently "Midwestern" accident. None of this, you'll notice, has much to do with a Moth Man, and quickly the film grows so inert that the movie, rather than its protagonist, seems to be sleepwalking. Pellington and screenwriter Richard Hatem perform some class-A pandering by dragging us through an emotionless, empty narrative with some isolated, ultimately inconsequential paranormalities as their (or our) lures.

This approach reaches its nadir in the grossly protracted conclusion, when the deadly collapse of a crowded, unsound suspension bridge is rendered in prurient slow-motion—and the script coughs up a few more meaningless coincidences and "spooky" flukes as though desperate to find in this mundane, purportedly non-fictional, and therefore all the more tasteless spectacle some evidence of alien intelligence. By the end of The Mothman Prophecies, I would have been grateful for signs of any intelligence at all. Probably the Mothman's genuine prophecy lay in his circumspect exit from the movie's final hour, a prescient indication that there wasn't anything worth sticking around for. Why I didn't follow his suit, I'll leave it to the experts to deduce. D+


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