The Mothman Prophecies

Jan 30, 2002 at 12:00 am

There’s nothing more terrifying than reality. At any given moment, you may find the finger of fate pointing directly at you. Such is the destiny of reporter John Klein (Richard Gere) and his wife Mary (Debra Messing), an all-over-each-other couple happily house hunting until a bolt-bursting, cable-snapping tragedy whacks across their understanding of what’s rational and what isn’t.

Based on John Keel’s 1975 book of the same name, The Mothman Prophecies is a modern-day derivation of Keel’s personal account of unusual paranormal events that occurred in Point Pleasant, W. Va., in the late ’60s. Whether the result of alien visitations, an Indian curse, a mutation of nature or phenomena far beyond our understanding and categorization, the legend of the Mothman is real, and fodder for director Mark Pellington’s jarring artistic vision.

The inexplicable haunts John Klein, twisting his fact-geared reporter’s perspective into a net of fear that unravels before his own eyes. Even if he doesn’t show much on his face, you believe Gere as the respected (turned obsessive) Klein. His style is internalized and you can almost see the cogs winding inside his head. As his wife Mary, Debra Messing of “Will and Grace” doesn’t have a chance to fake it. With Pellington’s hyper-close-up shots, Messing is forced to jerk from bliss to paranoia to tears of screaming hysteria. When she confesses, “There’s something wrong with me,” she means it, and the whole theater is afraid for her.

Laura Linney portrays Connie, the straight-thinking cop and psychological glue that holds the residents of Point Pleasant together. Recently recognized for her performance in You Can Count On Me, Linney is proving to be a reliable leading lady as well as a strong support in a diversity of films.

It’s easy to see that Pellington’s directing experience was weaned on music- and fine-art videos. Shots are spliced together with grating, scraping sight and sound abstractions as shadows of some alternative existence. This obscure, enigmatic imagery is brushed all over the film and works like a running stitch. It’s a loose link between worlds that allows additional room for interpretation, like a painting as opposed to a photograph, woven through a celluloid palette of sprayed grays ignited with fire reds.

In The Mothman Prophecies, direct answers are not handed over in a neat package, and all the loose ends are not tied. Events are simply “submitted for your approval” in a beautifully horrific way.

Anita Schmaltz writes about the arts for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].