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Retrospective Film Review: Mark Pellington’s The Mothman Prophecies

Sunday 14 December 2014

Okay so not traditionally regarded as a Christmas film, but given it’s the season when our thoughts turn heavenwards and to mythical beings in the sky, why not go hog-wild and include the Mothman in that little cavalcade. Plus, the film’s denouement takes place on Christmas Eve so there’s that too. But if you do fancy something a little less heartwarming this festive holiday, something more commensurate with the hyperborean climate outside, you could do a lot worse than subject yourself to Mark Pellington’s atmospheric exploration of the popular Mothman legend – a real account of a giant, winged creature purportedly seen over Point Pleasant in West Virginia between 1966 and 1967.

Driven by tomandandy’s super-intricate score – a more melodic but equally disturbing version of Mica Levi’s recent score for Under The Skin that fuses all manner of scraping, grating and atonal imbalance into a cohesive atmos-track – and Fred Murphy’s lens-bending, focus-shifting cinematography, Wellington’s film, although light on narrative and characterisation (Mulder and Scully could, you feel, have solved this in 45 minutes), lays on the menace and dread with overwhelming conviction. At times, yes, there are one too many music video tropes present in the film’s visual style (an extensive part of Pellington’s director background), but the eeriness and general feeling of malaise he conjures is palpably real, aided by Point Pleasant’s rural backwater setting and focus on its unremarkable townsfolk in the grip of either mass hysteria, or something more unearthly.