ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JAN. 31, 2002
The Mothman Prophecies is supposedly based on a series of mysterious events that occurred in the mid-’60s in the small town of Point Pleasant, Virginia. Reports of unexplained lights in the sky, strange telephone noises, and sightings of a man-sized, mothlike entity culminated in a bridge disaster that took the lives of 47 people on December 15, 1967.
Now there’s nothing like a bridge collapse over icy waters—and the terrifying idea of people trapped in submerged cars—to get theatregoers’ attention. Unfortunately, you have to wait until the end of this tedious and unfocused flick to see metal girders tumbling and cop cars splashing.
Richard Gere stars as John Klein, a respected Washington Post journalist who happens to be madly in love with his wife, Mary, played by Will & Grace’s Debra Messing. (We know Klein’s in love because he initiates a passionate make-out session in a closet while the two are out house-hunting.) On the way home after buying a place they’re waylaid by what looks like a swarm of moths, visible only to Mary, who slams on the brakes and smashes her head against a window. While she’s recovering in a hospital, doctors discover that she has a brain tumour, from which she eventually dies, though not before sketching several images of a winged apparition, which haunt her bereaved hubby.
The movie then picks up two years later, when the still-grieving Klein is driving one night from Washington to Richmond, Virginia. Somehow he ends up in Point Pleasant, 600 miles from where he thought he was, and at this point the film becomes an endless parade of weird happenings.
Klein’s car breaks down for no apparent reason. His cellphone dies. His watch goes on the fritz. Ooo-wee-ooo. He meets all manner of troubled townsfolk who relate to him the freaky experiences they’ve had lately, but none of these occurrences adds any intrigue or tension to the film.
An airplane crash and its death toll are prophesied, some guy bleeds from the ear, a ripped-out phone still rings, a disembodied voice reads minds. Enough already! Faced with such an unlikely mishmash of unexplainable events, you’ve given up believing anything by the time the popcorn’s gone.