The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
By: Dr. Obrero  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Columbia Tristar (USA). Region 1 NTSC. 2.35:1 4:3 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English, Spanish, French Subtitles. 119 minutes
The Movie
Director: Mark Pellington
Starring: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton
Screenplay: Richard Hatem
Tagline: What do you see?
Country: USA
Extremely creepy supernatural thriller, considered by director Pellington to be "a psychological mystery with naturally surreal overtone." Well, I don't quite know about that, but The Mothman Prophecies is certainly an effective, subtle and involving little chiller.

Richard Gere is the grieving, recently widowed Washington Post reporter drawn to a small West Virginia town to investigate strange events, including psychic visions, unsettling unearthly phone calls and the appearance of bizarre, enigmatic supernatural entities. Seems that his wife was assailed by a paranormal vision moments before the car crash that lead to the revelation of a terminal condition. Gere's deliberately low-key investigation, aided by local Sheriff Laura Linney points towards the presence of a mysterious, unseen urban legend known as the Mothman. Transpires these 'Mothmen' are portents of disaster and the little town in which Gere finds himself has a major shock looming.

An effective "X-Files" feel gives this moody piece considerable ambience and the constant subtle reinforcement of the movie's surreal overtones makes for a genuinely unsettling, and all-round impressive piece of restrained horror movie making. The Mothman Prophecies also benefits from a sharp, open-ended script from Richard Hatem, based upon John A. Keel's novel that allows adequate room for viewer imagination to be deployed. Richard Gere brings a very real sense of anguish and paranoia to his role, with this and Adrian Lyne's splendid Unfaithful it looks as if middle age has unearthed hitherto hidden acting depths, whilst support playing, especially from Laura Linney and the underdeveloped Debra Messing is agreeable and believable. Director Pellington (Arlington Road) helms in efficient, understated fashion - the Mothman is barely seen, glimpsed often virtually subliminally, while suggestions of the afterlife are kept largely in the realm of the mind's eye - cranking up the eerie atmosphere and building a real sense of omnipresent settling gloom, amplified by a marvelously weird soundtrack. Although the prophesied disasters and "ambitious The X-Files episode" character of the film sometimes suggests that Mulder and Scully might pop up at any moment, The Mothman Prophecies is an excellent, old-fashioned return to values of suggestion over effects movie making. Joins The Others, Jeepers Creepers and The Pledge in the top echelon of recent movies. Interesting to not that they all eschew cheap thrills in favor of suggestive scares.
The Mothman Prophecies is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, with a fullscreen 1.33:1 (4:3) non-16x9 enhanced version option on this single-sided, double-layered disc. Since the fullscreen image is a cropped bastardization of the directors intention, only the widescreen version will be reviewed here. If you want to watch films in Pan & Sc®am, look elsewhere. Despite a few minor problems, The Mothman Prophecies has been given a very good transfer by Columbia Tri-Star. The DVD handles the stylized palette of the film extremely well. Colours fluctuate intentionally, from a chilly, bleak appearance to times where hues appear almost oversaturated. Colour gradations are represented remarkably; with tones deep and well defined, solid black levels and excellently crisp shadow detail. There is occasional, very slight softness in the overall image, but sharpness is excellent and fleshtones nicely accurate. Edge enhancement is noticeable on occasion, but there are no compression artefacts or distracting moiré patterning effects. The print used appears to be in mint condition, with no flaws and only very light grain. various Overall, Columbia Tri-Star's DVD of The Mothman Prophecies provides a nice image and competent representation of the directors intentions when he shot the film.
The Mothman Prophecies is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and offers a convincing and involving aural experience. The soundtrack is balanced in favour of the front soundfield, but nicely expanded when necessary. The forward speakers are superbly employed, providing good stereo imaging and good sense of directionality; the surrounds are more strongly employed in the creation of a creepy ambience and to carry the soundtrack. Dialogue is clear, natural and distinct, with music vivid, exhibiting solid dynamics and superb clarity and excellent low-end employment. The mix's lack of multi-channel ambition disappoints slightly, but it's a pleasing track even so.
Extra Features
Columbia Tri-Star's DVD of The Mothman Prophecies meagre supplemental materials comes as a disappointment. All there is are a dismal four-minute 48-second music video for "Half Light" by Low with tomandandy, featuring Indrid Cold and we get the movie's theatrical trailer. Created by director Mark Pellington, the music video is awful, slapping together a combination of movie snippets and dismal performances by musicians who cannot sing any better than this reviewer. The theatrical trailer is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1. It's not bad of its sort. Finally, there's also a few short but interesting details about the real-life Mothman in the enclosed booklet.
The Verdict
The Mothman Prophecies didn't do well at the box office, it died a death, which is a real shame as I felt that it offered something a little bit classier than the average slasher and had a lot of atmosphere, as well as a decent story, good acting and stylish direction. Columbia-Tristar's rather basic, "bare-bones" DVD is solid on the audio/visual side, but hugely disappointing where extras are concerned. Even more so when it seems that even the most dismal modern flicks get much more extensive packages. This disc earns high recommendations for the film and its presentation, if not for the woeful supplements package offered.
Movie Score
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