Movie Review : The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
The first time I watched The Mothman Prophecies, I was living in a college dorm. It had just came out on DVD after a decent theater run and none of the people in the room knew exactly what to expect. By the time the credits rolled, I was so fucking scared and confused that I slept with the light open that night. And I couldn't explain why. So, I always wanted to exert revenge on the movie that transformed a 21 year old martial artist into a weepy mess. That revenge came last Friday when Netflix added The Mothman Prophecies to its lineup and fifteen years and countless horror movies later, it still managed to battle me to a draw.
That movie still has fangs.
It's a tough movie to synopsize, because nothing really happens in it. John Klein (Richard Gere)'s wife dies from cancer early on and two years later, he becomes preternaturally drawn to a little town in West Virginia, where telephone lines are bad and a mothman figure appears to people. Then, random freaky shit starts happening. Klein shows up on the same guy's porch night after night, asking for help, which really creeps him out. A dude with a funny voice named Indrid Cold walks around town predicting tragedies, Klein starts hallucinating his dead wife and more phone lines go bad. That's about it, really.
I still couldn't tell you exactly why The Mothman Prophecies is so goddamn efficient. It has something to do with how its presented more than what is actually going on. The soundtrack is particularly terrifying. It savantly mixes keyboard, static and ambient noise from the movie, which heightens your emotions and keeps you on your heels, because part of The Mothman Prophecies is about static and ambient noise. The first phone call from Indrid Cold is a good example of how the movie uses distorted voices, occasional music notes and sound effects to render a phone conversation terrifying. I mean, look at it.
Oh, and... spoilers.
But, objectively speaking, The Mothman Prophecies is a movie that uses the fear of the unknown to scare you shitless. It never directly shows you the mothman or Indrid Cold. It always appears through other people recollections, which makes you question its very existence. Are the people lying, hallucinating, misunderstanding a phenomenon or is this shit for real? The movie doesn't gift-wrap you an answer. It doesn't gift-wrap you any form of resolution, really. And that's what makes it really effective. You're left to bridge the gaps on your own and the explanations you'll come up with in your head will always be scarier than what any screenwriter can come up with. Fear of the unknown is powerful when used well.
The Mothman Prophecies still holds up as an all-time creeper. It doesn't matter if you know what's going to happen, because the movie doesn't connect the dots for you and leaves you scrambling to rationalize a series of freak occurrences that may or may not be linked. Human being need coherence and closure whenever they're confronted to their fears and The Mothman Prophecies holds back on both of these. And it's not available on Netflix for you to get freaked out. If you decide to watch it, don't forget: it allegedly all happened for real. Keep that in mind when you're trying to sleep and the phone rings in the middle of the night.