Plot: John Klein (Richard Gere) is a successful writer at the Washington Post, he has a gorgeous wife named Mary (Debra Messing), and he just bought the house of their dreams, so his life has become almost perfect, it would seem. But as they drive back from the house visit, Mary sees a strange figure in the road, swerves to avoid it, and winds up in a terrible car accident. She sustains some serious head wounds and dies not long after she arrives, leaving behind only some odd sketches she did just before she passed. Although he has no idea what the unusual black, winged figure is in the drawings, the images are burned into his memories. As a couple years pass, John finds himself having to drive to conduct an interview, but instead of arriving as planned, he ends up in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. This is very unusual, since John had somehow traveled four hundred miles in less than two hours. As he will soon discover, this is just the first of many unexplained events, which perplex him to no end and lure him to remain in Mount Pleasant. But was he destined to wind up in this small town, or is John’s mind simply playing tricks on him, even as he searches for answers of some kind?
Entertainment Value: A slow burn thriller with some strong horror vibes, The Mothman Prophecies is driven by atmosphere and mood, as well as a skilled cast that boasts some impressive talent. The horror manifests in bursts of eeriness that walk the line between supernatural elements and mental weariness, as our lead struggles with the past and that stress takes a considerable toll on his mental health. There’s just enough of the paranormal slant to lure in horror fans, but this does feel more like a chiller than an all out horror flick. So don’t expect Richard Gere to battle the Mothman, but the mythology permeates the narrative and adds a lot of tension into the mix. The pace is deliberate, even slow at times, but given how the movie leans on atmosphere, a slower pace doesn’t dampen the suspense or mood. I do think some genre fans might be put off by the emphasis on thriller elements over the horror vibes, but I think the creepiness is there regardless. Those interested in the Mothman myth will likely find the most to like in this one, but anyone who appreciates capable thrillers or atmospheric, eerie chillers should have a good time here.
I wouldn’t associate Richard Gere with an eerie thriller, but he handles the role well here and heads up a better than expected lineup of talent. Gere is competent and conveys the heavy weight of loss his character feels, which fuels much of his experience. He is rather understated, so this isn’t a performance that leaps off the screen, but the serious tone and inner turmoil of his character explain his restrained approach, as it makes sense within that framework. And while I appreciate a wild, over the top effort, I think in this case his approach works best. Laura Linney also has a prominent role and performs well, but again, feels fairly restrained. I think that holds true of most of the cast, as the mood is somber and chilly, so the performances being less flashy than normal was the right choice. Gere and Linney work well together and have good chemistry, which also enhances the material. The cast also includes Debra Messing, Will Patton, Lucinda Jenney, and Alan Bates.