Mark Pellington’s latest pop thriller is as kooky and overeager as it is spooky and subtly in love with myth. Resonant enough to make one suspect shadows and headlights of wrongdoing, The Mothman Prophecies should appeal to anyone still creeped out by that dead boy with the gun in Three Men and a Baby. It’s not long after the horny Mr. and Mrs. Klein sign the lease to their new house before a night-vision lands Mary (Debra Messing) in the hospital. Pellington has a grand old time conjuring the titular mythic figure via cracks and dark corners, the symmetrical framing (here, trees and desks inside a hospital’s waiting room) fabulously recalling Rorschach inkblots. Mothman’s grip is relentless, the film’s strange goings-on seemingly explained as the relapses of the mind and eye. Pellington’s visual palette is inconsistent enough to distract—quick-fire editing and hyper-saturated images are pointless when set against the more evocative use of fading techniques and light and shadow. Mark (Richard Gere) makes his way to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, stumbling upon more mysterious behavior and sexless repartee courtesy of local cop Connie Parker (Laura Linney). Pellington has a difficult time shaking off the dusty archetypes (the wise black man, the difficult research scholar), but pros like Linney and Alan Bates successfully dilute the cheese factor. Amid creepy sound bridges and a spectacular trip-hop score, murals and figurines depicting Native American rituals suggest an impossibly slippery mythos is at play. Pellington’s loops (smoke from a chemical plant, a visit from the governor) are cautious but tempting, daring the spectator to get it wrong: is this The Wicker Man meets Erin Brockovich? Mothman teases to the end, its wholesale rumination on the suggestive if not wholly paranoiac mind fabulously toying with fairy tale motifs once disaster becomes self-fulfilling prophesy.
The undervalued Mothman Prophecies gets a two-disc DVD special edition almost one years after it was originally and unceremoniously released on DVD. For a film this dark, shadow detail is especially remarkable. Skin tones are accurate but edge halos are noticeable throughout. And for a film this loud, the Dolby Digital 5.1 features a killer dynamic range. It's so good, dialogue is sometimes compromised but, then again, it's mood that matters here.
Mark Pellington is an expert mood setter but his monotonous commentary included here is a major downer. The monotony of his voice is near crippling and makes for a difficult sit. Also included on the DVD edition's first disc are cast and crew filmographies. A series of featurettes highlight the second disc. The intriguing and spooky "Search for the Mothman" explores the truth behind the myth and features some fascinating archival footage, which makes it that much more unfortunate that the filmmakers and editors so frequently rely on cheesy effects to tint the image or give the illusion that we're watching old film reels and not a recently shot video. The two-part "Day by Day: A Director's Journey" should appeal most to aspiring filmmakers-for everyone else, it may prove just as difficult to sit through as Pellington's commentary track. Of interest though is the director's incessant desire to separate art from commerce and his struggle with the studio to create the film under his own terms. Rounding out the disc is Low's "Highlight" music video (directed by Pellington and which appeared on the first Mothman DVD) and a series of deleted scenes and trailers.
It’s anyone’s guess why Sony even bothered to give Mothman Prophecies a two-disc set when there’s nothing here that couldn’t have been produced for the film’s original DVD release. While the film may deserve the attention, it’s also anyone’s guess whether anyone will care at this point.