ⓘ The Mothman Prophecies (film)

The Mothman Prophecies (film)

ⓘ The Mothman Prophecies (film)

The Mothman Prophecies is a 2002 American supernatural horror-mystery film directed by Mark Pellington, and starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. Based on the 1975 book of the same name by parapsychologist and Fortean author John Keel, the screenplay was written by Richard Hatem.

The story follows John Klein Gere, a reporter who researches the legend of the Mothman. Still shaken by the death of his wife a two years earlier in a mysterious accident, Klein is sent to cover a news piece and ends up inexplicably finding himself in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where there have been sightings of an unusual creature and other unexplained phenomena. As he becomes increasingly drawn into mysterious forces at work, he hopes they can reconnect him to his wife, while the local sheriff Linney becomes concerned about his obsessions.

The film claims to be based on actual events that occurred between November 1966 and December 1967 in Point Pleasant, as described by Keel. It was shot in Pittsburgh and Kittanning, Pennsylvania and was released to mixed reviews.


1. Plot

Washington Post columnist John Klein and his wife Mary are involved in an accident when Mary swerves to avoid a black, flying figure. John survives the crash unscathed, but Mary is hospitalized. After Mary dies of an unrelated brain tumor, John discovers mysterious drawings of the creature that she had created whilst in hospital.

Two years later, John becomes lost in West Virginia and inexplicably finds himself in Point Pleasant, hundreds of miles off his route. Driving in the middle of the night, his car breaks down; and he walks to a nearby house to get help. The owner, Gordon Smallwood, reacts violently to Johns appearance and holds him at gunpoint. Local police officer Connie Mills defuses the situation while Gordon explains that this is the third consecutive night John has knocked on his door at 2:30 AM, asking to use a phone, much to Johns confusion. John stays at a local motel and considers how he ended up so far from his original destination.

Officer Mills mentions to John that many strange things have been occurring in the past few weeks and that people report seeing a large winged creature like a giant moth with red eyes. She also tells John about a strange dream she had, in which the words "Wake up, Number 37" were spoken to her. During a conversation one day, Gordon reveals to John that he has heard voices coming from his sink telling him that, in Denver, "99 will die". While discussing the days events at a local diner, John notices that the news is showing the story of an airplane crash in Denver that killed all 99 passengers aboard. The next night Gordon frantically explains that the voices in his head emanate from a being named Indrid Cold.

Later that night Gordon calls John and says that he is standing next to someone named Indrid Cold. While John keeps Cold on the line, Officer Mills checks on Gordon. Cold answers Johns questions, including ones he could not possibly know the answers to, convincing John that Cold is a supernatural being. This episode starts a string of supernatural calls to Johns motel room. One tells him that there will be a great tragedy on the Ohio River. Later John receives a call from Gordon and rushes to his home to check on him. He finds Gordon outside, dead from exposure.

John becomes obsessed with the being dubbed the Mothman. He meets an expert on the subject, Alexander Leek, who explains its nature and discourages John from becoming further involved. However, when John learns the Governor plans to tour a chemical plant located on the Ohio River the following day, he becomes convinced the tragedy will occur there. Officer Mills and the governor ignore his warnings, and nothing happens during the tour. Soon afterwards, John receives a mysterious message that instructs him to await a call from his deceased wife Mary back in Georgetown, and he returns home.

On Christmas Eve, Officer Mills calls and convinces him to ignore the phone call from "Mary", return to Point Pleasant, and join her. Though anguished, John agrees. As John reaches the Silver Bridge, a malfunctioning traffic light causes traffic congestion. As John walks onto the bridge to investigate, the bolts and supports of the bridge strain. The bridge comes apart, and John realizes that the prophesied tragedy on the Ohio River was about the bridge. As the bridge collapses, Officer Mills car falls into the water. John jumps in after her and pulls her from the river and up to safety. As the two sit on the back of an ambulance, they see that 36 people have been killed, making Connie the "number 37" from her dream. The cause of the bridge collapse was never fully determined. Although the Mothman has been sighted in other parts of the world, it was never seen again in Point Pleasant.


2. Cast

  • Will Patton as Gordon Smallwood
  • Alan Bates as Alexander Leek
  • Mark Pellington as Indrid Cold "The Mothman" voice
  • David Eigenberg as Ed Fleischman
  • Laura Linney as Connie Mills
  • Bob Tracey as Cyrus Bills
  • Debra Messing as Mary Klein
  • Richard Gere as John Klein
  • Lucinda Jenney as Denise Smallwood

3. Themes and interpretations

Writer Paul Meehan judged the films explanation of the Mothman to be a "confused mish-mosh of science fiction and demonology" and likened it to the television series The X-Files, though preserving Keels "breathless hysteria". Meehan remarked that "Aliens spouting prophetic utterances rare in UFO literature".

In contrast to Meehan, author Jason Horsley declared The Mothman Prophecies "probably the most effective depiction of demonic forces at work" in U.S. cinema. Horsley assessed its approach to the Mothman legend as depicting a "schizophrenic nature of reality", fulfilling a "revelation" purpose in horror film, as it "strips away the comfortable veneer of consensus reality to reveal the seething abyss of irrationality". Horsley argued the films Mothman arrives from a foreign dimension, but being without "physical existence", it is also a product of the minds of Point Pleasants citizens, based on "formless and impersonal energy". The Mothman, identified by Horsley as "emissary of the Id", is depicted in the film as being as natural as electricity or gravity.


4. Production

Carl Franklin was originally attached to direct Richard Hatems spec script before Mark Pellington was hired. Pellington rejected numerous screenplay drafts as literal interpretations of Keels book, and wished to explore psychological drama in UFO witnesses.

In reality, 46 people died in the collapse of the Silver Bridge, not 36 as depicted in the film. The motion pictures claim at the end credits of the collapse of the Silver Bridge never being explained is false; the incident was found to be caused by the failure of an eye-bar in a suspension chain in 1971, well before the publication of the book on which the film is based, let alone the film.


4.1. Production Filming

Aside from a few opening scenes filmed in Washington, D.C., most of the motion picture was filmed in the areas of Pittsburgh and Kittanning in Pennsylvania. The scenes of Gere sitting on a park bench are on the University of Pittsburgh campus. Road montages were filmed on Pennsylvania Route 28, and the Chicago scenes are completely shot in downtown Pittsburgh’s Mellon Square and Trinity Churchyard environs as well as the entrance to the Duquesne Club. The "Chemical Plant" featured in the movie is actually a power station owned by Reliant Energy in Elrama, Pennsylvania. The Avalon Motor Inn is in Eighty Four, Pennsylvania, though scenes set indoors were built as separate sets, as the inns atmosphere could not accommodate production. Point Pleasant scenes were shot in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. The hospital scenes were filmed at St. Frances Medical Center which is now the site of Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh. The collapse of the Silver Bridge was actually filmed at the Kittanning Citizens Bridge in downtown Kittanning. Scenes shot at Gordon Smallwood’s house were filmed in Washington County on Pennsylvania Route 917. Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Airport serves as backdrop for the airfield scenes. Despite this relocation, several police officers from Point Pleasant appeared as extras.


4.2. Production Music

The films musical score was composed by the creative lab tomandandy. On January 22, 2002. Lakeshore Records released a two-disc edition of the soundtrack.


5. Release

After the film was theatrically released on January 25, 2002, writer Brad Steiger observed Point Pleasant became a focal point for its promotion. Marketing in television and posters emphasized claims it was "based on true events", despite the supernatural premise and Pellingtons acknowledgement that the account was reframed as a fictional narrative.

On June 4th 2002, a Region 1 edition of the motion picture was released on DVD. Special features included audio commentary by Pellington, a documentary entitled Search for the Mothman, and the featurette "Day by Day: A Directors Journey – The Road In". In Region 2, a DVD was published also including Search for the Mothman as well as interviews with Gere, Linney and Patton.


6.1. Reception Critical response

Among mainstream critics in the U.S., the film received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 52% of 138 sampled critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 5.5 out of 10. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics reviews, The Mothman Prophecies received a score of 52 based on 32 reviews. In 2003, the film won the Best Sound Editing: Music in a Feature Film award from the society of the Motion Picture Sound Editors.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it two stars out of four, calling it unfocused, but praised the direction by Mark Pellington "whose command of camera, pacing and the overall effect is so good, it deserves a better screenplay." The New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell judged it "hushed and smooth" but "little more than an adequate shard of winter-doldrums genre fare". The Washington Post s Stephen Hunter dismissed it as "all buzz: Its camerawork on the verge of a meltdown and weird music in search of a composer", and joked seeing it "is like getting mugged in an alley by an especially thuggish crew of Method actors". In Variety, Robert Koehler claimed it "wanders away from its sustained atmospherics into silly expository detours". For The Guardian, Bob Rickard defended it as "an intelligent and creative exploration of the slippery, dream-like world of those who get too close ".


6.2. Reception Box office

The Mothman Prophecies opened at the U.S. box office on January 25, 2002, earning $11.208.851 in its first weekend failing to enter the top five grossing films. It eventually went on to garner $35.746.370 in the U.S., and $19.411.169 in foreign markets for a worldwide total of $55.157.539.