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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

"It was like the universe opens up and points at you and says 'AHH There you are!! The happy couple, I've been looking for you!!'"
- John Klein (Richard Gere)

Review By: Jeff Rosado   
Published: December 19, 2002

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

MPAA Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 01h:59m:00s
Release Date: June 05, 2002
UPC: 043396078086
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ A-BB D+

DVD Review

When it comes to horror/sci-fi films with "based on a true story" scenarios, I have to don my Dana Scully skepticism cap. Far too many products in this genre take tales a notch above campfire stories and balloon them up to point that not even Rod Serling would have given the go ahead to them as fodder for Twilight Zone episodes. But take a well written script, committed actors who believe in the material, creepy atmospherics and you'll Mulder me into submission.

Loosely based on the infamous book by John A. Keel, The Mothman Prophecies takes the most compelling moments from a multitude of journal entries and cooks up a coherent, believable story that while a little on the melodramatic side at times, manages to fascinate as well as entertain.

Washington Post reporter John Klein seems to have it all. A top position at one of America's most respected newspapers, a beautiful vivacious wife and a dream house in the suburbs a few signatures away. One night while they're en route to their soon-to-be old digs with Mary behind the wheel, she's blinded by a vision of a darkly angelic creature. Losing control of the car, Mary suffers a severe head injury. While in recovery, her visions come back with a vengeance. Shortly thereafter Mary dies, but not before leaving behind a notebook of haunting sketches that gives John insights into what she witnessed on that fateful night.

Flash forward twenty-four months later. John is gingerly moving forward in his life, but like that classic ELO chestnut, he can't get what happened out of his head. On a midnight getaway drive from D.C. to neighboring Virginia, he experiences car trouble, with cellular phone gremlins as a unwelcome bonus. But that's minor compared to the welcome John receives from the owner of a nearby farmhouse. Seeking no more than a phone call, John finds himself held at bay, looking down the barrel of a shotgun. Frightened resident Gordon Smallwood (Will Patton) wants to know why John has been invading his territory for three nights running. John scans his mental datebook, but nope, no recollection of a previous living room shotgun showdown that week.

Thankfully, level-headed police sergeant Connie Parker (Laura Linney) arrives to calm the situation down. After determining that John meant no harm, she reveals that the town of Point Pleasant has recently been subjected to a series of incidents not easily explained. And suddenly, the not-so-magic words hit John like a hammer. Point Pleasant. More than a hop, skip and a jump away from just inside the Virginia state line where he thought his car went dead geographically.

Initial shock of being 400 miles away from home by automobile in less than an hour aside, John decides to stay on to further investigate local terrors, only to find how eerily similar they are to the experiences of his late wife. And it's not long before he too begins to experience similar visions and premonitions. A few eerie national disasters follow that chillingly parallel scenarios planted inside his mind.

Mere coincidences? Something more ominous? Is it possible for a town to be insured by Lloyd's of London? You can almost see the good hands of Allstate not being able to leave the town of Point Pleasant quick enough.

In lesser hands, The Mothman Prophecies could have been an overblown, silly, straight-to-video unintentional laughfest (think Amityville Horror). But thanks to taut, effective and imaginative direction by Mark Pellington, Mothman succeeds admirably. And this is a major triumph for the young filmmaker whose previous effort Arlington Road fit snugly into the aforementioned unintentionally funny category. Although a few sequences of the film venture a little too close to overdone (rapid fire edits, multi-colored quick cuts, etc.), Pellington wisely tempers those over-the-top urges of his past and lets his cinematographers and actors do the work.

Speaking of which, what a comeback for Richard Gere. Saddled with wildly inconsistent projects in recent years, this is his best dramatic role in quite some time. Forced to rely less on his charm and keeping his sometimes overtly laconic demeanor in check, he pulls off a very effective performance. In fact, some of his best moments in this film are those with no dialogue. Hurt, fear and confusion resonate from his face so powerfully at times that no words are needed.

Reuniting with Primal Fear cohort Laura Linney is icing on the cake. Perhaps the most underrated actress working in film today, her steely courage plays off Gere's quiet determination brilliantly (not to mention the fact that she makes toboggans look sexy, but that's another story). There's also great work from some of the best character actors in the biz: Will Patton, Lucinda Jenny (who needs a starring vehicle of her own) and the legendary Alan Bates.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Given Columbia's excellent track record in recent years, I was left a little underwhelmed on their work here. Why release a 2:35.1 film as a flipper with a full screen transfer on the B side? Not a good treatment for a film filled with much in the way of varied visual effects that I'm sure would have come off better in a dual layer disc. As a result, colors seemed muted to me and sharpness was extremely lacking.



Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: Again, the flipper format rears its ugly head here as well. Although a great mix filled with lots of ambience in the rears and a good showcase from a great score by tomandandy and Jeff Rona, at times it came across as very muted. Like a gauze over your speakers type of effect.



Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

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

Extra Extras:
  1. Music Video: Half Light by tomandandy (04m:48s)
Extras Review: Given the subject matter and the cult following of the book, it's extremely disappointing that the only digital trinkets included are an obligatory trailer and a music video. However, the tomanadandy music video is quite well done, upping the grading in this category a notch.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

It's really a shame that Columbia hasn't seen fit as of this writing to give The Mothman Prophecies a two disc release or at the least its coveted "Superbit" treatment. It was a very pleasant surprise considering it's January theatrical release date (or as this month could be known in the movie biz, the dumping ground) and one of the better sci-fi/horror films to come along the pike in a while.



 


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