What could possibly make every single horror movie more captivating and eerie, if not the “based on true events” line in the opening sequence? Exactly. Technically, this movie is based on a book, which was based on legends surrounding some very real, well-documented historical events of… catastrophic nature.
John Klein (played by Richard Gere) is an acclaimed Washington Post journalist, who, at the height of his fame and success, loses his beloved wife Mary (played by Debra Messing) in a traffic accident she caused by trying to avoid a winged apparition, visible to her only.
While he is left unscratched, in the hospital the story gets interesting, with his wife’s CT scans showing something akin to the creature she saw. At the hospital, John stumbles upon her sketchbook, filled with nothing but daunting drawings of a dark moth-like being with red eyes, which sets him on the obsessive journey through the interplay of human and cosmic irrationality.
One night two years later, he finds himself in a small town, Point Pleasant in West Virginia, under the most bizarre circumstances, hundreds of miles off his route.
A chain of even more inexplicable events related to both the town itself leads him to dig deeper into the urban mythology of a pre-apocaliptic apparition, known among locals as the Mothman. He is assisted by the local police officer Connie Mills (played by Laura Linney), and a man named Gordon Smallwood (played by Will Patton), both of whom are experiencing inexplicable premonitions, related to various disasters. John stays in Point Pleasant, coming closer and closer to contact with the being, whose nature is left for interpretation.
On one hand, it can be perceived as a sadistic demonic entity, indulging in human misery out of pure joy, or even boredom. On the other hand, it is more than implied that the wisdom the creature possesses is so far above and beyond human understanding, that its mere presence as a warning sign could truly be seen as an act of kindness, no matter how chaotic and amoral the Mothman appears to be.
Although it first received lukewarm critical response, where many praised the atmosphere, yet many criticized the cohesiveness of the script, this genre-bending movie has aged (un)surprisingly well. Not so much in the sense that it’s an acquired taste type of movie, but for those initially intrigued by it, this truly is a multilayered psycho-cosmic drama that gets better with each new viewing.
It is a cosmic horror with a rather fresh take on alien demonic entities, as much as it is a personal drama of a man coming to terms with grief in obsessive and peculiar ways. What this movie accomplishes with its perfectly eerie tone, does come at the slight expense of the movie’s pacing, but it is definitely a film worth checking out.