Arts: Mothman falls prey to muddled plot

The number one rule of a movie review is not to give anything away. Well, don’t worry. After seeing The Mothman Prophecies, I’m still not sure what happened. Directed by Mark Pellington (Arlington Road), this movie isn’t so much confusing as it is fragmented and may be prove difficult to piece together for even the most intelligent audiences.

The film tells the story of John Klein, adeptly played by Richard Gere (Runaway Bride), a Washington Post reporter who gets drawn into a series of supernatural occurrences after the death of his wife, Mary (Debra Messing, McHale’s Navy) in a car accident. Klein finds drawings that his wife made in the hospital of a strange moth-like figure she saw just before she lost control of the car.

This leads him, somehow, from D.C. to Point Pleasant, W.V., where local cop Connie Parker (Laura Linney, The Truman Show) introduces him to some of the folks who claim to have been seeing the “mothman” as well.

There are plenty of logical gaps in the story-line that are chalked up to the generally eerie tone the movie induces. It’s not really all that frightening. The movie is classic in the sense that the scary parts surprise you, but there are plenty of moments when something definitely should have happened but did not. This draws out anticipation, but also confuses the plot.

Characters are pretty well established as individuals, but some of the dialogue only puzzles the viewer. For example, most of the rapport between Klein and paranormal expert Alexander Leek seems completely out of place. It doesn’t relate to anything in the film.

That said, The Mothman Prophecies is a great looking movie. There are some cool shots of the District as Klein drives over Memorial Bridge. The camera work is full of grandiose visual tricks and Hitchcockian long shots that do more to scare the viewer than the story does.

Some of the most suspenseful moments come from split-second images caught on camera: headlights coming around corners, faces behind doors, mirror reflections, etc.

The movie does a first-rate job of communicating a disconcerting vibe. If that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed. But if you want a coherent story-line, good character development and a real sense of what’s going on, Mothman will leave you scratching your head wondering why you dropped eight bucks just to be confused.

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