Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Jewel Staite, Connor Fox, Jerry Leggio, Kennon Kepper, Susie Ambromeit
Directed by Sheldon Wilson
My first encounter with the Mothman came in kindergarten. Being that I was all about dinosaurs and Godzilla and monster movies at the time, I gravitated towards the 000 section of the library, always checking out books on Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, and their ilk. One such book featured an entry on the Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, said to have terrorized townsfolk and caused a deadly bridge collapse in 1967. The accompanying drawing portrayed a Nosferatu-looking fiend with fangs, bat wings, and big red eyes eerily peeping through a window. Suffice to say, as a child of such a young age, that drawing made quite the impression on me despite being inaccurate to actual eyewitness descriptions of the creature.
In high school I read John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies and learned that the allegedly true story was even weirder than I could have possibly imagined (Mothman, UFO sightings, Men in Black threatening witnesses, prophecies of doom, and so on). The 2002 Richard Gere movie version remains a sore subject for me because of how it so badly mistreated the source material. What should have been David Lynch by way of “The X-Files” instead jettisoned the extraterrestrial aspect in favor of a Sixth Sense-esque “psychological thriller” (as the film’s director insisted to avoid the dreaded scourge of being labeled as horror). I’m surprised it has taken this long for Syfy to finally make its own Mothman movie.
People in Point Pleasant that claimed to see the Mothman’s trademark glowing red eyes were said to experience burning and redness of their own eyes afterwards. Syfy’s Mothman takes it to the next level; this Mothman rips eyes out and is incapable of attacking victims that are blind because its powers all hinge on the victim being able to see it. This Mothman crawls out of mirrors like some J-horror ghost, becomes transparent and powerless when exposed to sunlight, and generally looks more like an ectoplasmic Man-Thing with wings. Pumpkinhead might be a more apt comparison given this Mothman is less a creature than a spectral avenger seeking violent revenge against those harboring dark hurtful secrets such as murder or, in this case, covering up an accidental death.
Director Sheldon Wilson succeeds in creating some spooky atmosphere while keeping things zipping along at a brisk pace, and the cast do their part as well, particularly Jerry Leggio, breathing some actual life into the clichéd blind old hermit that knows all about the monster role. Mothman‘s wings keep getting clipped by the script and not just nitpicky silliness like a pump-action shotgun with seemingly unlimited ammo. I hesitate to blame it all on the screenwriters. I know from past communications with Syfy writers that the producers and the network execs always have their hands in the creative cookie jar, and I’ve seen so many Syfy flicks that feature a town festival getting sacked by a monster or a natural catastrophe that I can only assume someone further up the filmmaking food chain made the call to have the Mothman show up at the town festival at the end and go on a random killing spree with little regard as to whether its doing so makes sense and even defies several of the rules previously established as to how it operates.
Mothman gets off to a dubious start with a group of teenage friends enjoying a day at the lake; a prank gone wrong leads to one’s kid brother drowning in a somewhat unrealistic manner in mere seconds. They all stand around his body after ten seconds of CPR fails to revive him and immediately begin freaking out about how nobody is going to believe them that this was an accident and their lives will be ruined because of it. Even the kid’s older brother is more concerned with weaseling out of the consequences. They decide to claim that he drowned after hitting his head. Being that the body has no head trauma to would support this theory, one of them picks up a big rock and bashes the corpse’s head in. To solidify their secret pact, they pass the rock around and each of them takes a turn cracking the kid’s skull. So by trying to cover up an accidental drowning to make it look even more like an accidental drowning, they create a crime scene that any police detective worth his badge would take one look at and assume a bunch of older teenagers savagely stoned a 13-year-old to death and dumped his body in the drink to make it look like an accident. And they somehow get away with this.
Ten years later, Katherine (Jewel Staite of “Firefly” fame) now works as a fledgling reporter in Washington, DC. Her boss wants her to do a story on the annual Mothman Festival held in her hometown of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. She returns home to find her old circle of friends still living there and still haunted by that prank gone wrong. Ex-boyfriend Derek still pines for her so, naturally, he’s happy to see her. The others tend to treat her with varying degrees of resentment, possibly because she appears to be the least traumatized by that night. No sooner does Katherine return than the town’s celebrated urban legend comes alive as the Mothman begins killing off the friends one at a time.
Alternate title: Mothman Knows What You Did Ten Summers Ago.
Because Mothman strives (and often succeeds) to be a darker and more well-rounded horror flick than most Syfy monster movies that openly embrace and even flaunt their schlocky nature or were made by people that clearly did not have any ambition whatsoever, it makes it harder to overlook the befuddling moments when the story scuttles its own internal logic, especially during the finale when it completely goes off the rails. I still enjoyed a good bit of Mothman, but those frustrating lapses in logic left me seeing red for reasons not associated with Mothman’s eyes.
Mothman flies off with a character that surely would have been killed only for that character to magically reappear alive minutes later without explanation other than a dialogue exchange along the lines of one saying, “I thought you were dead” and the suddenly alive person responding along the lines of, “So did I.” Either that’s just lazy screenwriting or major sarcasm on the part of the writers.
The very means by which Mothman is dispatched is one of the most underdeveloped aspects of the plot and might leave you wondering why someone would give Katherine the very instrument needed to kill the Mothman if that’s precisely what that person doesn’t want to happen. Heck, a lot of logical inconsistencies surrounding that character materialize during the climactic Mothman Festival massacre.
Faultiest logic of all: If you don’t believe there is anything you can do to stop Mothman from killing you and you know it cannot leave the city limits of Point Pleasant, why not just get the hell out of town?
2 1/2 out of 5
Discuss Mothman in our forums!
- Andrew Lyall I love stuff like this, keep em coming!
- Dread Central I kind of need to read this now.
- One-Eye I had the game on the venerable Commodore64 and it was shit. I could just never figure out how to play it and I got killed every time.
- The One and Only One you might've missed was PREDATOR Vs. MAGNUS:ROBOT FIGHTER from 1993 that Dark Horse did with Valiant Comics. Fun two issue mini having Magnus fight a Predator in the Mile Spires of the 41st...
- Jason Pankoke RIP the "Hollywood" R/Greenberg. He went to school and taught at the University of Illinois where I live before moving to NYC and starting his first design firm. I have a souvenir book of an exhibit...
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