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Inspired By real events occurring between November 1966 and December 1967 in the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Produced by Lake Shore Entertainment released by Screen Gems and directed by Mark Pellington.
The film starts with a reporter, John Klein (Richard Gere), and his wife Mary (Debra Messing) looking for a new house. They get into a car accident, supposedly caused by the Mothman, and Mary exclaims, "Didn't you see it?" She is later diagnosed with a brain tumor and dies soon after. Before she dies, she draws some really creepy pictures of the Mothman.
A couple years later, John gets lost on a road trip and ends up in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, a normally sleepy backwoods town; however the townsfolk have become wary of strangers because of the recent supernatural events. The townsfolk have had a series of encounters with the Mothman, and soon a mysterious being named Indrid Cold calls John in the middle of the night. With the help of the rather pretty sheriff Connie (Laura Linney), John tries to solve the meaning of the Mothman's presence.
According to the Mothman expert Alexander Leek (Alan Bates), the Mothman appears whenever a big disaster is about to occur. John becomes convinced that the tragedy is going to occur on the Ohio River and warns everyone but nobody believes him, of course. It does — but not in the way he was telling everyone. the Silver Bridge collapses as John is returning to Point Pleasant to spend Christmas with Connie.
The movie is based on a book written by well known journalist parapsychologist, and ufologist John A. Keel which was first published in 1975 studying the events that occurred in the town in 1969. Despite the title and first cover art and later the art of the movie poster The book focused mostly on the UFO sightings in Point Pleasant at the time along with some mention of shifty men in black snooping around, with only a few chapters dedicated to the sightings of the Mothman entity. Some anecdotes in the book were just crazy to believe.
- Agent Mulder (Alexander Leek) and Agent Scully (Connie)
- Arc Words. "Wake up, number 37."
- Author Avatar: Alexander Leek (Keel spelled backward)
- Blue and Orange Morality: Oh yeah. Discussed and clearly in effect, full force.
- Captain Ersatz: Gordon Smallwood is very loosely based on Woodrow Derenberger. His encounter with Indrid Cold is one of the things faithful to the Mothman mythos.
- Cassandra Did It: Possibly the Mothman.
- Creepy Good: Could be called "Creepy Good: The Movie". Mothman uses his powers to try and warn humans of impending disasters but people don't listen to him because he's so fucking scary! At first we're led to believe that he's the one causing the disasters but he actually turns out to be a pretty stand-up guy, er Abomination.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Although in this case it's not so much that dark is good so much as "who the heck knows".
Leek: You're asking for an explanation for something that can't be explained rationally. You know the buildup of energy before something happens? The way your hair stands up before lightning strikes?
- Deadpan Snarker: Connie and surprisingly, the Mothman himself.
- Mothman: Convinced yet?
- Dies Wide Open: Gordon Smallwood
- Dreaming of Things to Come
Connie: It was nighttime and I was in the middle of the ocean. I was trying to swim, but I was too cold. I kept looking-- I kept looking for something to hang on to. And there were presents floating all around me. They were wrapped up. They were tied with bows. I tried to grab on to them, but they kept popping away. And then I started to sink like a stone. There was nothing I could do. I was falling. But it felt good. I was letting go. I was letting myself go... and all I could see was black and all I could feel was the darkness above me and the lights coming from below. I knew I was dying. And then I heard this voice, like somebody whispering in my ear. "Wake up, number 37." And then I woke up.
- Gordon also has predictions from daymares.
- Eldritch Abomination: Indrid Cold/Mothman.
- Humanoid Abomination: He has a vaguely human like form.
- Evil Phone. Not quite evil, but thoroughly creepy, since his voice patterns were "outside of human vocal range".
- Executive Meddling forced Director Mark Pellington to reduce the final body count after the bridge collapse to 36 when in reality it was 46.
- Fire-Forged Friends: John and Connie. John and the Smallwoods, too.
- The Film of the Book
- Glowing Eyes of Doom / Red Eyes, Take Warning: How the residents describe the Mothman.
- Horror Struck
- Intrepid Reporter
- Just One Second Out of Sync: Watch carefully: in one scene, John Klein's reflection is out of sync with Klein himself.
- Make-Out Point: One of the places the Mothman shows up.
- The Men in Black: Book only and reported to have happened by towns people.
- Mirror Scare: Described by Gordon: "I see something that I cannot describe... but it sure as hell isn't my reflection." Later, after a scene in which John stares into a medicine cabinet mirror, he turns away while closing it... and for a brief moment, something is shown reflected in it.
- Motif: Repeatedly, the film emphasizes pairs of red lights so that they resemble eyes, indicating the ubiquitous hypothetical presence of the Mothman. As well, the letter 'y' shows up several times, usually in lowercase.
- Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book, Mary's little drawings.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Indrid Cold is never seen. The happenings in Point Pleasant are never explained. The camera is often positioned in a manner that implies the characters are being watched — but we never see what's watching them. And it is creepy.
- Phone Call From the Dead: John recieves a phone call from what appears to be his wife at one point.
- Prophetic Fallacy. John initially believes that the "tragedy on the Ohio River" will involve the local chemical plant, but it actually occurs much later when the Silver Bridge collapses.
- Real After All.
- Red Herring. The disaster will be at the chemical plant. It won't be.
- Sanity Slippage. Gordon, even if what's happening to him is real.
- Sdrawkcab Name. Leek is based on author Keel.
- Shout-Out: Perhaps unintentional or intentional; Leeks story of knowing a building was going to blow up and no one listened.
- These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know:
John: Didn't you need to know?
John: Two weeks ago, we were house hunting. One day you're just driving along in your car, and the universe just points at you and says, "Ah, there you are: a happy couple. I've been looking for you. I've been looking for you."
- The Un-Reveal You never get to see Indrid Cold.
- The Untwist You know the Mothman? The entity that they've discovered is real? He's REAL! And he's a good guy! AAAAHHHH!!!!
- The Unsolved Mystery
- Urban Legend
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story
- For one, the Silver Bridge disaster happened in the late-60s. Second, the Silver Bridge was a chain-link bridge, an unusual construction with no redundancy, that is, if one link fails, they all fail. So, unlike the movie's explanation that the cause of the collapse was never determined, in actuality it was discovered to be a micro-fracture that developed over time, exacerbated by heavy traffic, that caused a sequential bridge failure.
- What Could Have Been: What if John decided to stay in Washington and answered the phone? (shudder)
- You Are Number 37
- You Cannot Grasp the True Form:
John: I think we can assume that these entities are more advanced than us. Why don't they just come right out and tell us what's on their minds?
- Given how far above humanity he is and yet he still tries to protect them, Mothman could be considered a weird kind of cosmic equivalent of an animal rights activist.