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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Mothman Prophecies (2001)

"What do you do when people come into your office and say they saw this in their back yard?"
- Connie Parker (Laura Linney)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: June 06, 2002

Stars: Richard Gere, Laura Linney
Other Stars: Will Patton, Debra Messing, Lucinda Jenney, Alan Bates
Director: Mark Pellington

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Terror, Some Sexuality, Language
Run Time: 01h:58m:42s
Release Date: June 04, 2002
UPC: 043396078086
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ AB-A+ C-

DVD Review

When I saw this disc, I wasn't really too interested due to the poor press the film had received. But then I glanced at the MPAA rating box and noted that it was rated PG-13 for "Terror." That was certainly a new one on me, and I figured, what the heck. Much to my surprise, the MPAA did not let me down in this description. I haven't been this flat-out scared by a movie since I was a little kid. Only the Japanese film Ring comes close to the utter creepiness of this picture.

Washington Post reporter John Klein (Richard Gere) and his wife Mary (Debra Messing) are out one evening on a lonely road when something appears in front of them and causes a wreck. John doesn't see it, but Mary does, and is obsessed with visions of the ill-defined creature until she dies from her injuries, shortly thereafter. Two years after her death, John is driving to Richmond when he finds himself out in the back woods of West Virginia, with no idea how he got there. When he goes for help at the house of Gordon Smallwood (Will Patton), he learns that he has come to Gordon's door the last two nights at the same time as well. With the help of local deputy Connie Parker (Laura Linney), Klein tries to make sense of these occurrences as well as their connection to a mysterious being that seems to know far more than it should. I say no more lest the fun of uncovering the mystery of the Mothman be spoiled.

This film does a masterful job of producing old-style horror, where the monster is merely glimpsed and there is no gore at all, while keeping it with a modern sensibility. Part of the effectiveness is a terrific sound mix that provides quite a few jolts of its own. The use of unusual digital fades in particular is quite effective in producing a sensation of uneasiness. The one problem I have is that on a few occasions the editing is just a bit too hyper, but for the most part it works quite well in producing a vision as if through a broken mirror, paralleling Klein's confusion at the bizarre happenings that are going on around him. Imagery is used in a highly evocative manner, repeating patterns in a ways that suggests a higher form of consciousness that knows all and has motives of its own, which all by itself is pretty unnerving.

Gere turns in his best performance I've ever seen, shucking his usual "pretty-boy" character for a genuinely well-rounded portrayal that simultaneously shows deep grief and affection for his lost wife, as well as pure terror that some of the messages he is receiving may just be from her, beyond the grave.

The supporting cast is excellent as well, with Patton turning in a twitchy but likeable performance as the man who, for reasons unknown, is the focus of the Mothman's attentions. Linney is also terrific, and the script wisely keeps the relationship between Connie and John one of affection and tenderness without turning it into a sweaty romance, which would derail the story completely. Alan Bates also has a small role as writer Alexander Leek (loosely based on John Keel, who wrote the book that is the source of the film), who has had some experiences of his own that he'd rather not remember.

Part of what makes the film so effective is that it hints at possible natural reasons for some of the phenomena, but the cumulative effect is so powerful that no matter how skeptical you want to be, the picture really gets under the skin. It hits nerves like no other horror movie in recent memory, and is a powerful viewing experience that is guaranteed to produce chills. Terror, indeed!

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: The weak point of this disc is the picture. While the color, black levels and detail are all excellent, there is a ton of unnecessary edge enhancement that produces big rings around anything with substantial contrast. This addition ruins what could have been a terrific viewing experience. Other than the excessive ringing, it looks fabulous.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The sound design for this movie is simply incredible, and the transfer does it full justice. Every speaker of the 5.1 mix is active and there's clear directionality. The car wreck sequence is highly immersive and pretty jolting all on its own, with loads of ominous bass. The electronic score sounds great. There's no hiss or noise that I heard. This sound should have won an Oscar®, because it is in no small part responsible for the highly effective character of the picture.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. "Half-Light" music video
Extras Review: The extras are scant; when originally announced, a director commentary and deleted scenes were to be included, making a later special edition a very good possibility. These extras seem to have fallen victim to the inclusion of a pan & scan version of the film. There's a little bit here, though, such as a music video for the end title song, Half-Light, performed by Low and tomandandy, which is also directed by Pellington. The booklet contains a brief history (in tiny print) of the Mothman phenomenon. Finally, there's the notorious trailer for the film, which in the infamous "Chap Stick" sequence made the film the object of derision, even though the scene plays well within the context of the film. It just seems utterly asinine out of context. Be warned: the chapter list insert is FULL of spoilers, including giving away the ending!

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

If you're looking for a film that's as scary as they come, without being gruesome, The Mothman Prophecies fits the bill. I've seen hundreds of horror movies in my time and this is the real deal.


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