The Mothman Prophecies
2 stars

by Stephen Notley

As if it wasn't hard enough to live in a world teeming with platypuses, ocelots and coelacanths, we also have to contend with the mythological creatures -- Yetis, zebras, and now, Mothmen.

But anybody who's thinking about going to see The Mothman Propehcies should be warned; there's no guy dressed up in a rubber Mothman suit at any point in this movie, nor are there any scenes featuring a Mothman fully rendered in loving CGI. Nope, The Mothman Propehcies less a creature feature and more a psychological thriller. 

But perhaps "thriller" is too strong a word. "Creeper" would be a lot more apt, not only because the movie's main mission is to give the audience a low-level case of the creeps, but because creeping is about as fast as The Mothman Prophecies ever moves.

"Show, don't tell" is the basic rule for moviemaking, and for horror movies there's another rule, "Imply, don't show." The Mothman Prophecies has this second rule down cold; it's nothing but implication. Sometimes it's a shot of Richard Gere's face that slowly fades to another scene with a low "vorp" noise on the soundtrack, other times it's an ominous moth's-eye view floating over the town. This film is a master class in suggesting scariness when there isn't anything actually scary going on.

Watching this movie is like listening to a really really slowly dripping tap, with each drop being some little "um" of creepiness. The Mothman Prophecies lowballs so much of its material, in fact, that there's a real risk of falling asleep while watching it, no matter how many times we see characters reacting to rough sketches of black shapes with maybe a couple of red dots where eyes might be.

Y'see, Mothman isn't really a moth man, per se. It's probably more accurate to say that there's a little Mothman inside all of us, a man of moth who sees tragedies coming and helpfully imparts this information to local townsfolk in the form of eerie whispers and mysterious telephone conversations. 

It's a well-made movie, for sure. The acting talent's there. I'm not a fan of Richard Gere, but he broods up a storm in classic Gere style here. But better than him is Laura Linney, awesome in last year's You Can Count on Me, here playing the local town sheriff who keeps getting these weird reports from otherwise sane townspeople. And there's Will Patton, the only good thing in Gone in Sixty Seconds, The Postman and Remember the Titans, here playing an okay guy slipping over the end cuz of this damn Mothman.

And there are some good scenes, including one that's like (but not as good as) one of the creepier scenes in Lost Highway. And all the portentious portents eventually portend to something pretty gripping that we do get to see, though I'll tell you right now it's not Mothman. But it's a rather sleepy trip to get to the fireworks at the end.

If you're in the mood for a low-energy case of the heebie jeebies (with one or two jump moments), then you might go see The Mothman Prophecies. Otherwise, um, don't.