Original release: January 25th, 2002
Running time: 119 minutes
Director: Mark Pellington
Writer: Richard Hatem
Cast: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton, Debra Messing, Alan Bates
Alexander Leek: 00:59:39 to 01:04:26
The question “Are we alone?” is yet to be answered definitively, but even if it were to be a resounding “No”, the next question becomes “Who is with us?” Which answer are we more afraid of? That we’re alone or that we’re not?
Sometimes when I dream I see fragments of what will follow the next day. It can be anything from the face of a passer by on the street or spilling milk on the kitchen counter to something like a relative falling ill or a plane crash on the morning news. I’ve come to accept that’s how I dream; where I go when I sleep, time flows in neither direction and I can see events past, present and future. We all can, just as other beings can. Beings we normally cannot perceive and beings whose existence we cannot fathom.
Out of the corner of your eye you might have glimpsed them. In the darkness you might have felt it when the room seems to sigh and breathe with despair. They’re trying to talk to us but we just can’t hear. That much is true in this atmospheric and haunting film directed by Mark Pellington.
The Mothman Prophecies is a film you might have overlooked when it was first released in the year 2002. Not a lot was written about it and it went quietly into the night like so many other thoughtful films. The night I watched it, I recall that unsettling feeling of being truly unsure of what else was in the room with me that I couldn’t see, but the hairs on my arms and on the back of my neck stood up. it was a palpable feeling for sure.
With its screenplay by Richard Hatem based on the 1975 novel by John Keel, The Mothman Prophecies is the story of John Klein (Richard Gere), a journalist from Washington, D.C. He’s just bought a house with his beautiful wife, Mary (Debra Messing) but driving home one night before Christmas, their car skids off the ice on the road and they crash. Mary caught a glimpse of something which startled her and she lost control of the car. Waking in hospital and undergoing a brain scan, they discover a brain tumour and shortly before she dies, she becomes obsessed with what she saw the night of the crash.
2 years later John ends up in the town of Point Pleasant one night with no idea of how he got there. When a resident, Gordon Smallwood (Will Patton), reports him to local police officer, Connie Mills (Laura Linney), as the man who’s been troubling him and his wife in the late hours for the past few nights he starts to get the feeling there’s something very odd in this town.
As John spends more time there, he learns through Connie that residents have been reporting strange sightings and experiencing things that cannot easily be explained. She stresses to him that these are good people, they have no reason to make this sort of thing up, but it’s beginning to take its toll on them. On top of that John is receiving frightening telephone calls with just static on the other end, he’s seeing Mary and it’s a feeling that’s growing stronger – there’s something he should be doing.
He meets with an expert on precognition and prophecies, Alexander Leek (Alan Bates), in hope that he can help him understand what’s going on in Point Pleasant, why he was brought there and why Mary saw the same figure as these residents are seeing now. Their meeting takes place in a public library where Alexander shows John a book:
JOHN: So you’re telling me these things do not exist?
ALXANDER: Oh, they exist. All kinds of things exist around us that we never see. Electricity, microwaves, infrared waves. You know, these things have been around forever. They show up in cave paintings. They’re a normal condition of the planet. They’re just not part of our consensus of what constitutes physical reality.
JOHN: What, what are they part of, then?
ALXANDER: You’re, you’re asking for an explanation for something… that can’t be explained rationally. You know the build-up of energy before something happens? The way your hair stands up before lightning strikes?
JOHN: Before something happens. Do you mean they cause disasters?
ALXANDER: Why would they need to?
JOHN: Alright then are they trying to warn me?
ALXANDER: Their motivations aren’t human.
JOHN: Alright, then what do they want?
ALXANDER: I have no idea. What you really want is to know…why you?
ALXANDER: You noticed them, and they noticed that you noticed them. Most people aren’t sensitive enough to see them… without some kind of… trauma. What happened to you, Mr. Klein?
After this revelation, John looks even more troubled than before. During the scene he listens, but he can be seen pushing the books away from him, as if he’s saying “I don’t want this”. Clearly, he’s having a hard time digesting the events that are unfolding around him, he feels as powerless as he was when Mary died but something out there is one step ahead of them all. If only he can get a grip on it…
Their meeting is now taken outside. John is still trying to comprehend what he’s being told. From his own experiences he knows there’s weight in what Alexander is saying but now Alexander wants an answer from him.
ALXANDER: Like God? It made predictions?
ALXANDER: And they came true?
JOHN: Yes. His name was Indrid Cold.
ALXANDER: It’s perception, John. They appear differently to everyone. A voice, a light, a man, a monster. If your friend thinks it’s God he spoke to, he’s off by more than a few degrees.
JOHN: Then how do you explain that it knows everything?
Alexander directs John to look up at a building where a window washer is working high up.
JOHN: I think we can assume that… these entities are more advanced than us. Why don’t they just come right out and tell us what’s on their minds?
ALXANDER: You’re more advanced than a cockroach. Have you ever tried explaining yourself to one of them?
After this insightful and snappy remark that leaves John smirking, Alexander turns and walks away. John catches up and this where Alexander is about to issue a warning to him about what he’s experiencing and what is about to happen in Point Pleasant.
JOHN: Ten. Twenty, maybe.
ALXANDER: Listen to me. Something terrible is going to happen in Point Pleasant. Don’t go back. Stay away. I can’t talk about this anymore.
JOHN: Mr Leek. There is a reason… that I ended up in Point Pleasant. Something brought me there.
ALXANDER: Whatever brought you there… brought you there to die.
Returning to Point Pleasant in time for the lighting of the town’s tree, John is now obviously more troubled than before, but Connie informs him there have been more sightings. He has only a short time left to figure out what the sightings, messages and other strange phenomena are all pointing to if he’s to prevent a huge loss of life.
What I didn’t know when I first saw The Mothman Prophecies was that it was based on a real event. Between the time of 1966 and 1967, residents in the area of Point Pleasant actually reported seeing a creature at an abandoned TNT factory. On December 15th, 1967 The Silver Bridge, an eyebar-chain suspension bridge connecting Point Pleasant and Kanauga over the Ohio River, collapsed during rush hour traffic killing 46 people.
In the years that followed, stories about the “Mothman” began to spring up around the world; its sightings were associated with disasters but the creature itself seems to have been with us for as long as mankind has existed. In 1975 John Keel published a book, The Mothman Prophecies. In it, his investigations of the creatures’ sightings are combined with his own theories about UFOs and Men in Black and how they connect to the collapse the Silver Bridge.
It’s an interesting read and there’s much in the book that was either not included in the film or changed, most notable is the appearance of a character known as Indrid Cold:
As time passed I’ve watched the movie on many occasions and it never fails bring up the same feelings as the first time. Knowing there’s so much history behind the film as well makes it even more unsettling. If you happen to come across it, do watch out for this scene with Leek, I think it tells so much about what could be out there and why we’re simply not privy to it. It certainly makes me think twice about what shares the darkness at night with me.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .