Mothman Prophesies


Director: Mark Pellington

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Mothman Prophesies (2002) was promoted as a true story. The "true" part is that a bunch of people were "documented" by a fellow believer in the Mothman as having seen the Mothman in the 1960s, in a book by John Keel upon which the movie was slightly based. Keel found a couple hundred people who shared his experience as a Mothman sighter.

Similar books have inspired movies about flying saucer kidnappings & just because a junk-investigator can always find people galore claiming to have seen chupacabras, cow-gutting flying saucers, angels, & to have been taken inside Martian pyramids by space-faring sasquatches, doesn't make it true. If Keel had conducted interviews about sasquatches & flying saucers, the same group of people would have claimed to have seen those.

John Keel became a regular on the Flying Saucer circuit, getting paid to jabber to fellow believers & "experiencers" about the Mothman being a creature from outer space. You only have to listen to him for five minutes to "get it" that he's first of all a crackpot & second of all a huckster trying to make a buck.

He has a knack for taking all crackpot claims about all sorts of phenomenon & making it about the Mothman instead. He annoys even fellow saucer fanatics by refusing to adhere to the generally-agreed-to criteria for a "true" close encounter with extraterrestrials. This kind of crap is the new Theosophy with differing religious camps battling it out for which one is selling the real truth.

John Keel as a character in a fantasy film is more interesting than the real guy, as it doesn't show him trying to cash in giving his lecture to roomfuls of nutsacks & reassuring them that the Greys are mothmen, Sasquatches are mothmen, Chupacabras are mothmen, everything mysterious, except maybe Deep Throat who was Mark Felt, was a mothman named for the soft felty feeling of his wings.

It may be a retarded religion, but ›now & then such nonsense adapts well for a fantasy film. The film is fiction through & through, with "based on a true story" being only the standard storytelling manner of beginning with "This really happened" just before telling a scary whopper round the campfire, or retelling any piece of urban folklore as having actually happened to a close friend.

As such, the film works great, & is not tainted by the moronic cash-cow faux-faith dramatics of the real John Keel, though the film no doubt made it easier for him to get the lecture fee at sundry Conferences of UFO Believers who're too geeky for even science fiction fans to put up with.

I'm surprised how much I liked the film. To me, Richard Gere, who plays Keel, is one of the dullest screen presences, sometimes actually revolting, so I was slow to get round to viewing this. ›I've never seen Gere in anything that another actor wouldn't've done better & been vastly more pleasant to see starring. But he doesn't drag down Mothman, the mysteriousness of which is quite enthralling.

The film is full of sound & camera tricks & odd shots that make the world seem haunted & surreal. It's visually a treat that drums up an air of actual strangeness, which is so much better than blood & guts horror. Even though the paranoia of the thing at times is merely X Files & kind of laughable, I was able to go along with it, & the strengths of the story far outweighed the corny stuff.

copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl

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