Welcome back to another Friday Nightmare Reviews, wherein I tell you what you could be watching instead of wandering through the maze of the internet in search of items that you might like but may not exist. Instead, let’s spend an evening watching a film about something that may or may not exist but there’s certainly a lot of talk about it. But first, let’s tackle the really difficult question of our lives, shall we? Ever had one of those days where you wake up and something happens where you can just tell that today is going to suck? Like, you discover upon waking up that the toilet backed up or the car is just not going anywhere kind of something that just sets the tone for the whole day. Conventional wisdom would suggest that this is not the best way to go about your life because in all honesty, as much as mopping up toilet water or less than functional cars are legitimate causes for frustration, they aren’t the worst thing in the world to happen to anyone. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to get a hint that such annoyances were on the way? Just a small indication that things might not go so well in the near future would be appreciated by most, wouldn’t they? But would it really? I mean, there’s a large portion of the world that reads their horoscopes on a daily basis and said portion gets a bit on the whiny side when someone’s stab in the dark on what the stars predicted for them isn’t full of glowing happy things. So imagine what you would feel like if you got a giant harbinger of actual doom. Like a hulking, shadowy mass of a harbinger that had glowing red eyes. You can tell me that this wouldn’t scare the shit out of you and I already wouldn’t believe you but it’s worse still when this giant red eyed nightmare is only here to tell you that life in the near future is gong to suck in far worse ways than leaky toilets and broken down cars.
Now one could make a pretty decent argument that any time you see a large creature that is clearly some variety of monster that shouldn’t exist, it’s a good indication that the next few minutes of your life are going to be both interesting and, very likely, pretty shitty in the extreme. That is assuming that said monster is just there to hover in the darkness and then politely disappear without eating you. It’s the wild animal approach to giant monstrosities. While there are some cryptids that do tend to have an implied correlation between their arrival and certain misfortunes, (think the chupacabra and the sudden disappearance of a bunch of goats you used to own) it’s not really a given that seeing them is understood as an omen of ill fortune to come. Granted, seeing a cryptid is never necessarily counted as a good thing, particularly in folklore, but most of us count these things as a kind of curiosity rather than a reason to start drinking. This is where our inaccurately named cryptid of the week comes in. The Mothman might sound like the world’s least interesting super villain but as implied before, he’s basically a massive monster with red eyes that glow in the dark. Described as being several feet taller than your average tall person with a bird-like shape to him, this critter was spotted in Point Pleasant in West Virginia multiple times over the course of a year between 1966 and 1967.
These days, you can see Mothman any time you want to, really. At least, you can visit his metal tribute in Virginia as there is a statue erected in his honor. While you’re there, you can also partake in the Mothman museum that is less than a block away from the statue. (According to the internet, they had Mothman sugar cookies even! I can neither confirm nor deny this as I don’t live anywhere near the place but if anyone wants to try them out for me, I’m told they are good.) And if you time your trip properly, you can even find yourself partaking in the annual Mothman Festival which, according to the museum website, boasts live music, festival food, Mothman hayrides, men in black and cosplay. I have no idea what festival food is but if it’s not moth related, I will forever be fairly disappointed. (Unless it’s real moths because I loves them and please don’t eat insects that I love.) Anyway. Basically, in West Virginia, Mothman is kind of a big deal and a pretty decent tourist trap. That’s awesome but it doesn’t really tell us the whole story of what it was that got this cryptid all the attention that warranted the red carpet treatment in movie form. (Sorta)
Unless you’re from West Virginia or happen to be the kind of nerd who gets super excited about creatures that exist in the shadowy regions of our world, there’s a good chance that you were unaware of this cryptid until his movie, The Mothman Prophecies, came out in 2002. That said, it’s not like he was completely unknown. Tonight’s movie was based on a book of the same name that was released in 1975. In turn, the book was inspired by the November 12th sighting of the cryptid prior to a major bridge disaster, the collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967. So while not ancient by our standards, Mothman as an entity has still been fluttering around for a while and there’s been some talk that he might be even older than his first appearance in the sixties. Still that infamous year where he came by to hang out in Point Pleasant is what our cryptid is most known for and that is the premise of this week’s film. Sorta. Oh, this week’s film.
I will get to a lot of what to expect shortly but before I really get started here, I will tell you about what you probably shouldn’t expect to see in this film and save you almost two hours waiting for it. First of all, if you were hoping to see Mothman in all his cryptid glory, I am sorry to say that his appearance is rather phoned in. Like literally. You get a phone call with something that doesn’t even call itself Mothman but that’s what it’s implied to be. You also don’t get to see any groovy sixties fashions because this film is set in, at the time, present day. Two other notable absent details in this film are blood, even when people die, in a very curious detail, jumpscares. The film has so many set ups for jumpscares and never once uses any of them. During a really well made film like Hereditary, the lack of jumpscares actually ramps up the tension as you wait for the cathartic pop and instead of that, you watch the action continue to crawl unbearably through the scare, making it that much more unnerving. A film like that plays your expectations and scares the shit out of you worse when it doesn’t deliver. This film, on the other hand, hoped that the silent void left by the lack of a music sting would be tense enough to hold your attention because clearly it had better things to do than frighten you.
With all this said now, I suppose we should get to the plot of this film. Picture, if you will, a successful journalist working for a prestigious newspaper, married to a very beautiful Debra Messing. Along with getting applauded for his work, he’s just found the perfect house to buy with a wife that he’s madly in love with. As they finalize the paperwork and prepare for their new life together, she contentedly says that it seemed like a dream come true. This is a horror film so you can place your bets on how that scene ended. If you guessed that she isn’t making it to the second act of the film, congratulations on being able to call the thing what they telegraphed from basically the first time we meet the sacrificial wife. You see, it turns out that Mothman cares not for your happiness nor your first baby steps into home ownership as he sees fit to appear (sorta) to Messing on their drive home less than three seconds after she spouts off about that whole dream come true crap. I will give the film points for not killing her off immediately and the sudden brain tumor was a nice touch in the dead wife trope. After going through rounds of chemo that leave her with a head of gorgeous red hair and all her makeup still on, she expires off screen and thus our main character can begin his hunt for the rest of the plot. No really, settle in with something warm to drink, friends, because this is a long fucking movie and we’re only fifteen minutes deep.
After we rid ourselves of the all important wifey-poo, our main character who is creatively named John, played by Richard Gere, finds himself sitting on a park bench two years after he successfully completed the tragic backstory starter pack. He looks vaguely sadder and is shown refusing to socialize or meet new people because his sorrow is just way too big. So big that he decides that he’s off and running to prepare for an interview that he’s conducting the next day by driving to the location at about midnight, like normal people do. Because driving in the middle of the night often leads one to making excellent decisions, Johnny boy drives himself from DC to some place called Point Pleasant in West Virginia. Now Google assures me that the fastest route to get there would take about six hours but because Mothman is supposedly involved, somehow John’s car is able to break the laws of physics and motor vehicle safety and closes that distance in a scant two and a half hours. When his car stops working for no reason, our hero decides that knocking on a stranger’s door at two thirty in the morning is a great way to make new friends in the middle of nowhere. What he finds instead is a very angry Will Patton playing the somewhat unhinged Gordon, a man who responds very reasonably and rationally to someone knocking on his door in the middle of the night by shoving a gun in his face and forcing him to come into the house and stand in the bathtub. Granted, according to Gordo, John has been pissing him off for three nights in a row now, knocking on the door at exactly two thirty in the morning and then disappearing? Maybe. Good sir Gordon then explains that he would’ve shot the fucker but he’s a Christian and also he’s definitely not crazy and has been sober for a while now. From here, our lady cop and love interest, Connie, shows up to make Gordon put down his gun and escorts our confused main character out the door. So as of now in the film, we have our main character, some standby secondary characters, a basic set up, our location and the replacement for the dead wife. Now the story can start, right? (Did you need to take a pee break yet? You might want to do that now because we’re going to be a while still.)
Since journalism is something we’re told that John does, we see him flex those muscles by flirting with the lady cop as he tries to figure out what Gordo’s bat shit deal is. When John and Connie stake out things, they find the ever trustworthy Gordon, good law abiding Christian that he is, wandering out on the property with his trusty loaded gun waiting to greet John again. (Fun Fact: while Virginia is an open carry state, I don’t believe that this is something that is supported in Point Pleasant.) Anyway, Connie lets slip that people in town have been seeing some weird shit and John is curious as to what manner of weird shit is being seen so our shining example of law enforcement takes him back to the station and they look over files. Confidential files. And while they are looking through these files, John comes across a shitty drawing that someone did of the weird shit they saw and, what a surprise, it looks just like something his dead wife drew right before she up and died. Sure, she was on a lot of drugs to ease the horrible pain of dying of a brain tumor but this creepy drawing proves that her car accident was caused by Mothman. John takes this extremely personally and begins to interview the residents of the small town who’ve seen the monster. As he’s starting to get confused and creeped out, John is suddenly approached by none other than his new best friend Gordo.
Seems that since our perfectly well balanced, definitely sane and totally not drunken Gordon started hearing voices and seeing things, he’s decided that maybe John is an okay guy after all and no one is really put off by that whole threatening him with a shotgun thing. Seems that the plot got bored of what it was doing so, through our richly drawn weirdo here, we finally get our first decent plot dump. Yes, up to this point, the Mothman had been sorta seen around and some people even had a strange form of pink eye after seeing him but he hadn’t really done much of anything. In fact, he doesn’t really do anything much even when he does make his first PR appearance through good old Gordon here. You see, Gordon got up for a glass of water or a piss or something in the middle of the night and began hearing weird voices coming out of the drain. As he tells John this, his ear starts to bleed. I’m pretty sure it’s the only blood you see in the whole film and this sinister finding leads to a great big ball of nothing. No really, they investigate, find nothing and Gordo is sent back to sit with his wife and John at some greasy spoon to debate on what might have caused him to start bleeding from the ear. But suddenly John realizes that the weird bullshit that Gordon heard coming from the sink was a premonition as he spots the corresponding tragedy on the evening news. And with that, friends, the plot has finally arrived.
From here, you might think that the tension kicks up into high gear and we’ll see some connection between John and Connie growing or Gordon’s sanity being tested or a giant fucking shadowy figure with burning red eyes appear. Precisely none of that happens. Well, Gordo continues to make you doubt that he’s sane but this is all kinds of undercut by the film insisting that we never show the Mothman but instead, we have the creature actually talk to John on the phone and have him record it. The conversation is less interesting than you might imagine with the monster telling him that he knows what John is doing and that people are going to die and he shouldn’t worry about it and that oh by the way he’s going to end up joining his dead wife. The thing is that this phone call is supposed to be happening while Connie is checking up on Gordon to make sure he’s okay and we see that he has no idea why she showed up and is baffled as to why she would check on him. The filmmakers also go out of their way to prove through some bullshit science talk that this isn’t a human voice that he was talking to, so by this point, you know it has to be the monstrous thing that they are talking to. And yet still, the two leads are trying to do the flip flop thing, questioning if maybe Gordon is just off the wagon or maybe just a little crazy.
From here the plot meanders into meaningless tedious territory that is not interesting to watch and even less interesting to describe so I’ll fast forward to the end and you’ll just have to forgive me because I’m going to spoil it for you, though it we’re being technical, history already kinda spoiled it for you to start. Basically the climax of this film is the major collapse of the Silver Bridge and John tries to get people to leave their cars and run when he realizes that it’s gonna fall. The scene take a long time to get started but when it does, the damage is pretty horrific with the cables snapping and flying all over the place. The shots are actually pretty impressive and if we actually got to know any of the people in the film beyond “there’s that guy John talked to once” or “hey, isn’t that some girl they interviewed” it might have been a pretty harrowing scene to see who lived and died. Alas, Mothman didn’t care and neither should you because the bridge collapses and the cars begin to sink, including the car that Connie is in. John, deciding in the last fifteen minutes that he’s got a plot arch to finished up, jumps in the river to save her and manages to rescue her from being the fated 37th person to die that night, as was telegraphed earlier in the film. I would claim that this is a major plot twist or spoiler but the film is so worried that you might have missed it or dozed off during that part that it legit walks you right to the conclusion, holding your hand the whole way so you don’t accidentally miss that she was supposed to die. From here, the credits tell us that Mothman was never seen there again and that no one ever figured out why the Silver Bridge collapsed, even though that’s bullshit. (For the curious, the Silver Bridge collapsed because of a small defect caused by corrosion and when this one component failed, the equilibrium of the bridge was thrown off and it couldn’t hold the stress of trying to accommodate rush hour traffic.)
So by now, I’m sure that you can guess that my suggestion is to skip this film. If you want to check it out anyway, you can look forward to the fact that it’s well shot and it’s a very pretty film to look at. The acting isn’t bad, though I would argue that they are given almost nothing to do with anything. If you’re going to watch it for anyone, Will Patton as Gordo is definitely worthy of seeing. He does a good job of what he’s got to do and considering how little that is, he is working it well. I will say that there are a few moments that could have been a bit tense and there’s some great scenes in here so it’s not an entire loss. In fact, the very smart use of color, particularly when you see red is something that I did enjoy and felt deserved a better film but I did appreciate it. That said, the film really does suffer from having such a very thin plot and it’s stretched out for nearly two fucking hours with almost no tension throughout. The Mothman isn’t threatening in the slightest. The main character isn’t stuck there and it’s not really clear why he stays anyway. And added to this is the weird inconsistency of how he is perceived in town. Sometimes people know him and are interested in seeing him and other times he’s almost treated like an outsider. This isn’t helped by the fact that sometimes it feels like there were large portions of the plot taken out or just omitted and it actually felt like sometimes there was an editor that just kind of clipped something. It’s not incoherent but it can get confusing and I honestly came away from the film thinking that I was missing something about it. So with that, I am suggesting that you give this one a pass. Mothman deserves better than this and so do you.
And that concludes another Friday Nightmare Review! Thank you for those of you who are joining me for this late review. I appreciate your patience and I hope you will join me this coming Friday again to get back on track with another review. If you would like to get a peek at it earlier, you can check out my Patreon and, for a scant dollar a month, you can get to see everything on the site before anyone else. Even if you can’t, I appreciate everyone who pops over here and until next time, may your days be filled with fully functional electronics, may the town weirdo only tell you wholesome stories, may you all find your dreams come true without any sudden tumor inducing car accidents and may all your nightmares be pleasant ones.