Saturday, April 09, 2005

West Virginia Wide-Screen Wackiness: Mothman Menaces Movies

What happens when you take modern-day monster mythology out of mothballs and make a major motion picture? The same thing that occurs when space aliens listen to the music of John Denver. You end up with The Mothman Prophecies, a film which combines Creature Feature scariness with television's X-Files.

Mothman, a seven-foot-tall, gray-skinned, red-eyed, batwinged horror is the subject of real-life 20th Century folklore. The beastie first appeared in the towns of Salem and Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on the night of Nov. 14th, 1966, scaring residents and reputedly kidnapping and slaughtering a dog.

When Silver Bridge, connecting West Virginia with neighboring Ohio, collapsed on Dec. 15th, 1967, 50 rush hour motorists plunged to their deaths in the Ohio River. Citizens of Point Pleasant felt that Mothman was responsible for the tragedy.

(Silver Bridge, site of suspicious highway tragedy)

Multiple UFO sightings were reported that night, fueling conjecture that Mothman, a tall, humanoid creature with wings and neon-red eyes, was actually a space alien living in Point Pleasant's McClintic Wildlife Preserve.

Director Mark Pellington (Arlington Road), who chose the city of Kittanning, Pennsylvania to double for Point Pleasant, West Virginia, enlisted the services of top-notch actors Richard Gere and Laura Linney in Mothman's flight to the silver screen.

Gere, who owes nods to X-Files veteran David Duchovny, plays Washington Post reporter John Klein, whose wife dies of a brain tumor following an unexplainable auto accident possibly caused by Mothman. While driving to research his late wife's legacy of Mothman drawings, Klein is mysteriously "transported" to Point Pleasant, 400 miles from his Virginia destination.

Point Pleasant police Sgt. Connie Parker (Linney), becomes entangled in Gere's mystery when she shows him witnesses' sketches of Mothman and he sees that they are identical to his late wife's drawings. What ensues is an eerie, shivery film which keeps the viewer one step ahead of the actors but always at least a faint heartbeat behind the flapping wings of the Mothman.

The Mothman Prophecies may not be Academy Award material but it does mark a noted and welcomed return to the classic movie convention of a "good clean scare." Without relying on gore, graphic violence, or loud, trumped up sound effects, Mothman is a return to a more Hitchcockian atmosphere of noirish suggestion. Of particular note is the film's conclusion, which will undoubtedly cause a seasoned film veteran to think of director Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now.

If you find yourself experiencing conjunctivitis after viewing The Mothman Prophecies don't chalk it up to the dimly lit atmosphere of a darkened movie theater. Just remember the experience of 18-year-old Mothman witness Connie Carpenter, who said that she had pink eye for over two weeks after her car was chased by Mothman at speeds of nearly 100 mph in 1966.

And don't forget the words of late singer John Denver: "Country roads, take me home to the place that I love. West Virginia, mountain mama…" Or maybe that should be "mountain Mothman?" Sometimes I think John Denver and the Mothman were one and the same, but you can decide for yourself as The Mothman Prophecies is out of the cocoon and on DVD for all to gape at. But don't look directly into Mothman's eyes when you push the pause button or you may be teleported to the wilds of West Virginia (and forced to attend the annual Point Pleasant Mothman Festival).


01 Sep 1966 Several adults Scott, Miss. Man-shaped object maeuvering at low altitude.
01 Nov 1966 National Guardsmen Armory, near Camp Conley Rd., Point Pleasant A large, brown man-shaped figure on limb of tree.
12 Nov 1966 5 male adults Cemetery near Clendenin, WV. A flying, brown human-shaped object.
15 Nov 1966 2 married couples TNT Area near old power plant, Point Pleasant, WV. Large gray man-shaped creature with blazing red eyes 10' wing span. Pursued witnesses' auto.
16 Nov 1966 3 adults 3 children TNT Area near "igloos" Tall grayish creature with glowing red eyes.
17 Nov 1966 Teenaged boy Route 7, near Cheshire, Ohio Gray man-shaped creature with red eyes and 10' wing spread pursued witnesses' auto.
18 Nov 1966 2 firemen TNT Area Giant winged creature with red eyes.
20 Nov 1966 6 teenagers Campbells Creek WV Gray man-sized creature with red eyes.
24 Nov 1966 2 adults, 2 children Point Pleasant Giant flying creature with red eyes.
25 Nov 1966 Male adult Highway passing TNT Area Gray man-like being with red eyes and 10'wingspread. Pursued auto.
26 Nov 1966 2 male adults, 2 children Lowell, Ohio Four giant brown and gray birds with reddish heads 5' tall, 10' wing spans.
26 Nov 1966 Housewife St Albans, WV Gray creature with red eyes, taller than a man standing on lawn.
27 Nov 1966 Teenaged girl Mason, WV Tall, gray man-shaped being with 10' wingspan and red eyes. Pursued auto.
27 Nov 1966 2 teenaged girls St. Albans, WV Gray seven-foot tall creatures pursued witnesses (who were on foot).
04 Dec 1966 5 pilots Gallipolis, Ohio, airport Giant "bird," appeared to be plane at first. Long neck reported. Estimated speed: 70 mph.
06 Dec 1966 Mailman Maysville, Ky. Giant birdlike creature in flight.
06 Dec 1996 2 adults TNT Area Giant gray man-like figure with glowing red eyes.
07 Dec 1966 4 adult women Route 33, Ohio Brownish-silver man-shaped flying creature with glowing red eyes.
08 Dec 1966 2 adult women Route 35, WV Shadowy figure on hilltop, two glowing red eyes.
11 Dec 1966 1 adult male 1 boy TNT Area Man-shaped figure, gray, flying over-head at great speed.
11 Dec 1966 Adult woman Route 35, WV Huge gray creature with glwing red eyes, flew past car.
11 Jan 1967 Housewife Point Pleasant Winged being as big as a small plane flew low over Route 62.
12 Mar 1967 1 adult woman Letart Falls, Ohio Large white flying being with long hair, 10' wingspread, passed directly in front of car.
19 May 1967 1 adult woman TNT Area Flying creature with glowing red eyes approached hovering luminous object and disappeared.
02 Nov 1967 Adult woman TNT Area Giant gray man-like figure gliding swiftly at ground level across field.
? Nov 1967 4 adult males Chief Cornstalk Park, WV Witnesses claim to have encountered a giant gray figure with red eyes wihile hunting. They were so frightened they never thought to raise their guns.