|The Mothman Prophecies is a rarity:
a stylish, esoteric chiller on the themes of subjectivity
and fear. Anyone hunting for a torch-waving showdown with
a giant mutant will hate this film badly.
But its actually one of the most subversive genre
pictures from a studio in recent memory, with strong
human performances from Richard Gere, Laura Linney and
book by John A. Keel has been a cult item for years.
Billed as based on actual events, it tells of a small
West Virginia town bedeviled by a presence that foretells
disaster with inhuman accuracy.
The Mothman Prophecies is the third feature
film from veteran commercial and music video director
Mark Pellington, best known for his work with bands
like Pearl Jam and U2. From its tranquilizing opening
credits to its catastrophic resolution, the film relies
on Pellingtons virtuoso application of film score
and sound design.
One of the reasons I did the movie Mothman was
because of all the sound capabilities in it, Pellington
said recently from his office in Hollywood. I
wanted something eerie but beautiful, warm but disturbing.
Pellington worked with music supervisor Liza Richardson,
a longtime programmer and DJ at public radio powerhouse
KCRW in Santa Monica; with sound designer Claude Letessier
(The Thin Red Line); and with the composers known
as tomandandy (Waking The Dead).
Distinct from many MTV graduates, Pellingtons
style induces a sort of alert receptivity instead of
a migraine headache. The result is an unusual mirage
of sound and storyline that alternately provokes and
soothes the viewers anxiety. Since we catch only
glimpses of the pictures title character and central
enigma, the films sonic dimension proves especially
When I started to do movies, I was blown away
how little people considered sound, and how sound was
considered an afterthought, Pellington says, adding
that his favored method of creating mood and emotion
has always been to cut picture to sound, not the reverse.
Mark is why the music turns out the way it does,
says Liza Richardson from a sound stage in Los Angeles.
He gets me on (the film) very early and he uses
music on the set to inspire what the actors are feeling.
I have a Mark Pellington section in my mind
ominous, obscure underground things that are anywhere
between orchestral, digital noise, ambience. Mark is
really drawn to the emotional value of music.
films double-CD soundtrack (Lakeshore Records)
features one disc devoted to the tomandandy score and
the second featuring haunting music by underground luminaries
Low, King Black Acid and noise-master Glen Branca.
If the film sets up a Rorschach Test for viewers, then
likewise the responses have been all over the map.
Theres rabid, rabid people who seem to
love it. Then like any movie, there are people on the
internet, and critically, and in screenings that are
just like, Ugh. Its fucking horrible! Pellington
says, more amused than offended.
I realize if youre going to make anything
thats not straight down the middle, youre
going to get a polarized reaction to it. One persons
irritation is another persons intoxicant, you
As for his own tastes, Pellington praises the artful
ambiguity of David Lynch. I love Mulholland
Drive. That just opened me up to the possibility
of a movie as a dream and an experience.
With The Mothman Prophecies and Mulholland
Drive, each picture delivers more than high tone
visuals and hypnotic sound. Its a step forward,
from the familiar into the unfamiliar. With the Mothman,
you get the sense that we have entered the domain of
the post-creature feature.
Now available on DVD.