The Horror Honeys: What Does the Future Have in Store in The Mothman?

What Does the Future Have in Store in The Mothman?

An Urban Legend & Film Review with Monster Honey Sarah

The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

A drawing of what would become known as the 'Mothman'
Cryptozoology is the study of animals and plants that are outside of the norm in of nature. Most become simple local folklore in whatever area they’ve been sighted in, but there are a few that become more widely known and a part of general folkloric culture. The Loch Ness monster is such an example, or the Jersey Devil. This overlap where urban legend and mythical monster meet is excellent fodder for some truly strange stories. Are the monsters real or simply hoaxes inspired by a kind of metaphorical frenzy? And if they are real, then what exactly are they? Aliens? The missing link? Demons? In the late 1960s in the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, several people reported sighting of something that came to be called The Mothman; a humanoid creature with large wings and glowing red eyes. Some speculate that it was an alien, or a supernatural entity, and others say it was merely a small town tricksters wanting attention. Whatever the real reason, the events are undeniably strange and serve up a fascinating set-up for Mark Pellington’s 2002 film, The Mothman Prophecies.

After strange occurrences surrounding the death of his wife Mary (Debra Messing), John Klein (Richard Gere) is drawn to the small town of Point Pleasant in West Virginia, where a series of similarly bizarre events have been happening. As John works with local man Gordon (Will Patton) and policewoman Connie (Laura Linney), things start escalating and John begins to question what is about to happen and what his part in it might be.

The Mothman statue in the real like Point Pleasant. No, I don't know
why he has rock hard abs.
The Mothman Prophecies was surprisingly chilling, and leaves just enough mystery that you can never be entirely sure of the proper explanation for things. The strange things that happen are on the right side of plausible; things that you could imagine hearing about happening as part of a true creepy story or unsolved mystery, but nothing that goes too far into the realm of overly outlandish. John could easily just be imagining things and latching onto random coincidences as a way of coping with and explaining his wife’s death. It could be an simple solution although if done poorly would feel like cheap and weak writing. However then things happen that can’t have a rational source, such as the encounters with Idrid Cold who could be a mouthpiece for the Mothman, or something else entirely. In the one scene that we “see” him in he’s shot very blurry and what is visible is very elongated and inhuman looking.

I always feel like somebody's watching meeee!
There’s also the moral debate about having the knowledge of impending disasters and the difficulties and consequences of trying to stop them. If you start raving about something terrible about to happen you’ll just look crazy, or suspicious when the event comes to pass. In addition to this Laura Linney’s Connie rejects the idea of living your life according to the guidelines and warnings given to you by mysterious forces. It’s interesting and not the kind of questions I expected coming up as I went into the film.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's...
Whilst we don’t get to see the Mothman per se, it is a tangible presence in the film. It functions as a halfway point between messenger and omen of oncoming disaster, although John also ponders whether it might be a cause of the disasters that follow after the sightings. Richard Gere has a grounding quality which makes his grieving intrepid reporter a bit more than the stock character John could be. Laura Linney is fine as the small town cop in over her head with town weirdness, but the real supporting star is Will Patton as Gordon, the frazzled man that crosses paths with John and who becomes more and more unhinged as the pressure of seeing and hearing things starts getting to him.

The atmosphere of the film is appropriately bleak and draining, helped in no small part by some great cinematography. At times it’s slightly off-kilter to disorientate, at others it almost seems to be playing the part of whatever force is stalking John; floating and observing with a detached eye. The colour of the film is also drained in many places, with the particular and significant exception of red lights. Like John we too are filled with a distinct and undeniable feeling that something terrible is about to happen, and if you’re familiar with the stories of what happened you will see the signs. When it does all come crashing down, if you’ll pardon the pun, it is appropriately horrific and spectacular in equal measure.

The next season of Fargo looks great, you guys.
If you want winged beasties wrecking havoc, maybe Mothra is the better bet for you, but this is a moody and creepy take on the strange mythology and mystery surrounding cryptids.

Monster Honey Rating: 4 ominous warnings out of 5 

A note on this film: The day I saw it I went out in the evening and passed a building site. As it was very foggy I was unable to see the cranes, but could clearly see the red lights at the very top of each crane; two of them, shining like eyes in the dark.

But I’m sure that everything is going to be just fine.

Who is your favorite urban legend monster?
Tell Sarah on Twitter: @sarahjosmiley