The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

the mothman prophecies

“Wake up #37”

The Scoop: 2002 PG-13, directed by Mark Pellington and starring Richard Gere, Laura Linney, and Will Patton.

Tagline: What do you see?

Summary Capsule: A reporter from Washington DC is drawn to a small West Virginia town and begins to investigate strange occurrences and sightings of the Mothman.

Andie’s rating: A moth flew in my car last night, it kind of freaked me out.

Andie’s review: Well, I rented The Mothman Prophecies because it just came out on video at Blockbuster and as employees we’re supposed to watch the new releases so we can recommend them to people if we think they’re good movies. I wasn’t particularly excited about Mothman because I thought it looked dumb. There were two factors that drove me to watch it: The box said it was based on actual events and Laura Linney is in it and I really like her.

So the other night I got off work and I popped this baby in the DVD player about 1:30 am. When 3:30 am finally rolled around and the movie ended, I didn’t want to get off the couch and make the trek through my house because I was too freaked out. For all its faults (and there were some), this was a genuinely creepy movie that had me watching my back all the way to my bedroom for fear of getting attacked by Indrid Cold.

The premise is that Washington Post reporter John Klein’s (Richard Gere) wife Mary (Debra Messing, looking absolutely beautiful in every frame) is killed in a car accident. In the hospital before she dies, she keeps drawing picture of a moth-like shape and asks John if, before the crash, he saw it too.

Two years later, Klein is on his way to Richmond to interview the governor of Virginia when his car breaks down. After a run-in with some locals, he gets picked up by Connie the Cop (Laura Linney) and discovers he’s in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. In 90 minutes, he traveled 400 miles from DC to near the Ohio/West Virginia border. So that’s a little spooky. The next night, he tries to leave town and ends up, Groundhog Day-like, back at the place where his car broke down the night before.

So he starts talking to the Connie about some weird happenings that have been going on recently and they start to investigate these so-called sightings. Turns out that people who’ve seen the Mothman draw pictures that look exactly like what Klein’s wife was drawing. As Klein digs deeper, he reads a book written by a man who has studied these Mothman sightings. Apparentally there are hundreds of reports of these sightings concentrated in an area right before huge disasters hit that area, like hurricanes and earthquakes. So the Mothman, Indrid Cold (isn’t that a creepy name?), starts to contact Klein and tries to let him know what disaster is going to befall this little town. Klein deduces that there’s going to be a huge accident at the chemical plant in town and tries to warn people, but nobody believes him. When nothing happens and everybody thinks he’s crazy, he goes back to DC. But he ends up coming back to Point Pleasant and figures out what the real disaster is, but not in time to save hardly anyone.

This movie isn’t five-star; it has its faults. About two-thirds of the way through the movie, once the initial creepiness sets in and we get some scary scenes, it kind of slows down. That was disappointing because I want to be creeped out the whole time. I actually had to stop clutching the pillow I was holding for large amounts of time and that means it’s not scary enough. But overall, it does it’s job and the big disaster at the end is disturbing, not only because the prophecy is coming true, but because people are dying and that is scary.

What made this movie so creepy is that the director, Mark Pellington, really knows what he’s doing. He makes the Mothman something we’re scared of because it’s the unknown. He also sprinkles in some good “Boo!” scares, but doesn’t overdo it, like a cheezy horror movie would. There’s also a very creepy scene where the Mothman tells Klein things about himself that the Mothman couldn’t possibly know. It’s really well done and instills a good sense of paranoia. The real kicker is that this really IS based on actual events. I did a little web research and this town in West Virginia does exist and in the late 60s, there really were a ton of odd occurrences and a large number of unexplained sightings of a moth or bat-like figure. And at the height of these circumstances, there really was a huge disaster that killed 46 people. That’s enough to creep me out. So go check out Mothman.

Kyle’s rating: What the X-Files movie SHOULD have been!

Kyle’s review: All my life, I have loved stories and ideas about the supernatural and the unknown. When they had school book sales I would buy all the “Mysteries of the Unexplained” and “House of Evil!” they had to offer. That’s why The X-Files and me got along like peanut butter and jelly. That’s why everything freaky in life (Twin Peaks, Mountain Dew, astral projection, that green-haired girl at the bookstore that time, etc.) has always had a special attraction for me. I love crazy, unexplained stuff! Why accept science at face value? Why assume we know everything there is to know? Where is my own personal magic fairy to park my car and do my laundry? There is more to existence than birth, death, and bad sunburns!

If your perspectives are anywhere in line with mine, then The Mothman Prophecies is for you. It’s an atmospheric film, kind of like The Sixth Sense. But the cold detachment and s-l-o-w pace of Sixth Sense is thankfully missing here, because this film is all about a serious respect for the paranormal mixed with jarring flashes of whatever unknown power is fueling the plot. You never get too good a glimpse at the Mothman (Indrid Cold? Maybe!), so your imagination fills in the blanks for you and if your imagination is like mine (dark and twisted) you’ll be having nightmares for days. Days, I tell you! Someone hold me, please!

Let the story unfold at its own pace, and just marvel at the effectiveness of the well-thought backstory and the power of a cast that appears to be here to actually tell a story and not just cash a big check. The townspeople of the (cursed?) town are all sympathetic, Laura Linney is great as the conflicted police officer unwilling to cave in to the supernatural, but Richard Gere holds everything together with his effortless charm and powerful performance as a man slowly unraveling. Comparisons to The X-Files are unavoidable, but actually Mothman Prophecies wins out as X-Files has been disappointing for years, and this film reminds you how great the Mulder-Scully dynamic used to be. Let’s have more adventures with Gere and Linney, eh? Sounds like fun!

Egads, it’s a phone! The truth must be made known about this!


  • The film is based on actual events that occurred between November 1966 and December 1967 in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. In the film, 36 people are said to have died. In December 1967, 46 actually died in the disaster.
  • The use of red in this movie. It’s very important. Along those same lines, this director has a David Lynch-like obsession with stop lights.
  • The name of the expert on paranormal activity is Leek, the reverse of paranormal expert and author of the novel that the film was based on, Keel.
  • Director’s Cameo (Mark Pellington): the bartender.
  • The clock radio in John Klein’s motel room reads: 6:14. It’s a biblical reference to John Chapter 6 verse 14, which reads, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’
  • Leek’s story of how he tried to stop the destruction of a building but failed because no one would believe him is very reminiscent of Mark Pellington’s last film, Arlington Road.
  • An obvious Pittsburgh landmark (the Masonic Temple, home of the Pitt Alumni Association) appears in the background of scenes supposedly set in Washington, DC, and Chicago.

Groovy Quotes

Indrid Cold: Wake up #37, wake up.

Mary: You didn’t see it, did you?

Indrid Cold: Tragedy on the Ohio River.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • You Can Count on Me
  • Rear Window
  • Vertigo
  • Don’t Look Now
  • Dial M for Murder


  1. Two years later, Klein is on his way to Richmond to interview the governor of Virginia when his car breaks down. After a run-in with some locals, he gets picked up by Connie the Cop (Laura Linney) and discovers he’s in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

    Washington D.C. to Richmond is a straight shot down either I-95 or US-1 (both of which are a hellish experience) and don’t get anywhere near West Virginia. Either the writer flunked U.S. geography, or Klein is amazingly incompetent with driving directions..

    • No, that’s the point. In the movie they talk about this, after the wife’s death it’s the first sign of not rightness. Klein ends up missing a big chunk of time and has no way of explaining it. Kyle just didn’t address it that way in the review.

      He really is heading to Richmond, and *bam* he’s in Point Pleasant and doesn’t know how he got there.

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