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The Mothman Prophecies

What do you see? 

Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Already taking the "Strangest Film Title Ever" charts by storm, The Mothman Prophecies descended on the British cinemas unheralded and almost unknown, which was rather a shame, as it proved to be one of the most intriguing supernatural dramas I've ever seen.

Based on genuine events in West Virginia in the sixties, The Mothman Prophecies stars Richard Gere as Washington Post reporter John Klein who finds himself inexplicably drawn to a small town community where something very bizarre is afoot. Sightings of a mysterious, shadowy figure have gone through the roof, and everyday country folk are living in fear as a result of these unexplained phenomena. As Gere begins to investigate these events, he is dragged deeper and deeper into a world of madness and terror that threatens to destroy his life and the lives of those around him.

Ostensibly this is a clear-cut horror film, in which a mysterious and terrifying apparition plays with the minds of a selection of people, predicting terrible events and driving his 'victims' to distraction. However, this is no Jeepers Creepers style straightforward blood and thunder gore flick, but rather a darkly atmospheric psychological horror which induces a feeling of cold terror without ever resorting to cheap tricks. Don't let its 12 certificate fool you - this film is really really scary.

Mark Pellington, the director urban terror story Arlington Road has crafted a terrifyingly believable atmosphere, where the ringing of a telephone is as ominous as the appearance of an eight-foot winged monster. The perspective-altering camera angles, the minimalist music, the quiet atmosphere of dread juxtaposed with the feverish intensity of the sightings and the stunning final sequence, all pull together to create one of the most impressive, understated horror films of recent years, on a par with Hideo Nakata's Ring.

Richard Gere, expert in smug, has somehow managed to pull off an excellent performance, one which requires more than just the suit-and-tie charm which served him so well in Pretty Woman, Primal Fear, etc. As the emotionally frail, recently bereaved (he lost his wife a year previously in a crash which may have somehow involved the titular Mothman) reporter who is trying desperately to understand his place in all this madness, he is surprisingly authentic. It is Laura Linney, however, as the Marge Gunderson-like sheriff who injects the film, and indeed Gere's character, with a heart that is absolutely essential in such films. It is she who makes the final, catastrophic, scenes all the more unbearably heartrending.

Leave your amusement at the funny title at the door. This is an exercise in sustained fear, and one that will have you looking up at the skies, looking under the bed, and jumping every time the phone rings.

Greg Taylor

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Screenings of this film:

2001/2002 Summer Term (35mm)
2001/2002 Summer Term (35mm)