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Movie Review

Successful Washington Post reporter John Klien and his wife Mary have just purchased their dream house. The couple is madly in love, presumably after many years of marriage, and life looks good. But on the drive home, Mary crashes the car and ends up in the hospital. There, doctors discover that she has a brain tumor, from which she eventually dies. A heartbroken John learns that before she died, Mary made dozens of fitful sketches of a huge, black mothlike creature. Fitting the clues together, John surmises that this creature is what ran Mary off the road the night of the accident.

Two years later, the Mothman comes back to haunt John. Driving from Washington, D.C., to Richmond, Va., John mysteriously ends up in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, ostensibly having made a six hour trip in just over one hour. It doesn’t take him long to discover that things are not normal in Point Pleasant. Strange sightings. Frightening voices. Eerie predilections. Thus, John is thrust into a story like no other he’s ever covered. And at the end of the trail of evidence is the very creature penned by his wife on her deathbed.

Inspired by events that actually happened in Point Pleasant in the late 1960s, The Mothman Prophecies purports that the black creature shows up wherever mass tragedy is about to occur. In the year before the Chernoble meltdown, Mothman is said to have been seen over 1,000 times. Apparently, Point Pleasant is next. Unfortunately, John Klien’s link to the town and its mysterious occurrences isn’t explained any better than is how he got there.

positive content: John and Mary love each other very much, and he is devastated by her death. Their kind of long-term passion is rarely depicted by Hollywood—too bad it didn’t last beyond the first 15 minutes of the movie. John’s right-hand lady in Point Pleasant is police Sergeant Connie Parker. The two have a respectful relationship and Connie is put forth as an honorable law officer and positive example. Connie is one of the few who refuses to let her life be controlled by the Mothman, even though she knows his actions are real. She warns John not to give the creature too much credit or control.

spiritual content: When he’s first stranded in Point Pleasant, John knocks on the door of a house. The man who opens it (Gordon) immediately points a gun at him. When the police arrive, Gordon says, "It’s a good thing I’m a Christian. I have the right to shoot you right on the porch." Immediately after calling himself a Christian, Gordon calls John a "dumb f---." Most of Point Pleasant’s residents are "good, honest, churchgoing people." They’re hardworking and moral, but not really spiritually alive.

John gives fate a nod after Mary’s cancer diagnosis ("It’s like the Universe just points at you and says, ‘Oh, there you are, a happy couple. I’ve been looking for you.’") That’s about the last non-spiritual explanation that’s given for the film’s strange events. The rest of them are pure occult. Let’s look at the facts about the Mothman: He’s a real being who can manifest himself in different ways to different people. His perspective on life is described with an analogy often used by Christians to describe the perspective of God or the angels, that is a view of the world broader than humans’ and unbound by time. He is able to seduce some of those who hear him into believing that succumbing to him will bring only goodness. On the contrary—such submission brings death to at least one character in the movie. Alexander Leek, a scholar who spent years studying the Mothman, says, "In ancient cultures, a moth represents a psyche or soul immortally trapped in hell." Leek also tells John that there’s no benevolent purpose in the creature’s warnings of impending tragedy. ("Whatever brought you [to Point Pleasant] brought you there to die.")

This description is consistent with the Bible’s documentation of evil spirits. The only significant departure is that Scripture indicates that demonic contact is often initiated or allowed (either through deliberate or careless acts) by humans. In The Mothman Prophecies, the creature seems to prey only on unsuspecting and unwilling victims. The fact that the Mothman is presented as awful and destructive keeps the film from overtly glorifying the occult. Nonetheless, the audience is left with nothing more than a "Whew! That was freaky. Glad he escaped" sentiment. No truth is presented as to how this kind of demonic contact can be understood, avoided or defeated.

sexual content: Mary is seen naked (from the rear) through a foggy shower door. While she and John are house shopping, they get passionate—and horizontal—in a closet (the realtor walks in on them before her clothes are too far gone). John interviews a teenage couple who were attacked by the Mothman while making out in the back seat of a car. A flashback briefly shows the girl in just her bra. John repeatedly gazes at a picture of Mary in a bathing suit which shows cleavage.

violent content: We see Mary’s head hit the car window, but it’s not a gory scene. The Mothman leaves his victims with bloody eyes and ears. Cables snap, people are trapped, and cars are shown plummeting into the water when a bridge collapses. As mentioned, Gordon points a gun at John. John takes out his anger on inanimate objects (like phones).

crude or profane language: Seven misuses of God or Jesus’ names, two f-words, five s-words and about ten mild profanities mar the dialogue.

drug and alcohol content: Gordon says he used to drink. John visits a bar and has a couple of drinks.

conclusion: The Mothman Prophecies doesn’t just pull your chain. It grabs it and hangs on. Peppered with more than a few inconsistencies and hard-to-explain connections, it resorts to producing a steady flow of adrenaline to keep the audience’s attention. Camera angles that say, "Something is watching." Sinister music. All of which can be fun in moderation, but in this film, moviegoers never get a break. Mothman departs from the norm in its acknowledgment that evil spirits exist and make contact with humans, but it doesn’t take them seriously enough to imply that they can and should be overcome. In fact, it doesn’t make much of a point at all, but you have to recover from having your mind messed with before you discover that. At any rate, there’s enough language and other questionable elements here to kill this insect before it takes flight.

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Richard Gere as John Klien; Debra Messing as Mary Klien; Laura Linney as St. Connie Parker; Will Patton as Gordon; Alan Bates as Alexander Leek


Mark Pellington ( )


Sony Pictures



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Lindy Keffer

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