On December 15th, 1967 the Silver Bridge which connected Point Pleasant, West Virginia to Gallipolis, Ohio collapsed under the stress of rush hour traffic and killed forty six people. Later on, it was determined that the collapse was due to a small defect only .1 inches in a single eyebar in one of the suspension chains along with poor maintenance. However, sightings of the Mothman during that time period had citizens attribute this disaster to a far more sinister cause. That led to a book in 1975 by John Keel. Twenty seven years later, the film The Mothman Prophecies would be released based on these events. Let’s take a look at the Imprint #39 release arriving on blu-ray.
John Klein (played by Richard Gere) is a reporter for the Washington Post. Despite urging from his office, he won’t be attending the Christmas party. Instead he has a date with his wife, Mary (played by Debra Messing). He makes the call to his wife who is busy taking a shower and leaves a message. It appears that the happy couple is on their way to buying a house together.
Soon, we rejoin both John and Mary in their new home where the real estate agent, Brian (played by Tom Stoviak) talks about the house. John and Mary decide to explore the house on their own and find a closet to their liking. They are apparently overjoyed about the home and soon the real estate agent finds them on the floor (because they love the carpet so much) of the closet and tells them that the home is theirs if they want it. John says they will take it and resumes to his enjoyment.
Later that night, the happy couple drive down the street back to their old home. They stop at a red light and decide to kick things up a notch by driving much faster. Mary, driving, all of the sudden sees a specter with two red eyes coming towards her on the road which causes her to spin out her vehicle. They are able to come to a stop but Mary cracks her head against the glass of the driver side window. A frantic John calls 9-1-1 and gets her to a hospital.
Fast forward to the hospital and Mary is in a bed with John by her side. Something is very wrong with her and she is seeing scary images in her head. The hospital performs a brain scan. Mary has a temporal lobe tumor, a very rare condition. She goes through surgery and chemotherapy with little success. Despite her condition, she tells John that “I want you to be happy.”
John investigates the scene of the crash sometime later for clues but comes up with nothing. Later, he receives the dreaded call from the hospital that says his wife has passed. At the hospital, an orderly points him towards a notebook. As he turns the pages, the sketches and drawings become more and more disturbing with various frightening messages.
Two years later, John is trying to resume a normal life. However, as we often learn the shadows of the past often come to haunt us in the present. A late night trip for an interview to Richmond, John mysteriously finds himself in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Thus our real story begins.
Once in Point Pleasant we begin to unravel the tale of why many of these townspeople are seeing similar visions as John’s wife did and what it is all leading to. We get introduced to a couple of fantastic characters in Gordon Smallwood (played by Will Patton), a local resident and Connie Mills (played by Laura Linney), a police officer in the small town. The film really does a great job in building up their characters regardless of whether they stick around or not. Each one is memorable and help to enhance the film.
Despite the use of a Mothman as a backdrop for the movie, it is certainly not a creature flic or a horror film. It is a psychological suspense picture where potentially every word or frame can lead to unnerving the audience. The film doesn’t have elaborate CGI and instead uses old fashioned camera tricks and editing to make the events that much more horrifying and realistic. The assorted actors and actresses also play extremely well together and don’t overshadow the story. Even with it being a Richard Gere film, it’s really about the town of Point Pleasant and his character’s journey to understand his role in what’s going on.
It is a genuinely entertaining film too and while it does have its share of jump scares, it never does them for effect or to stab at the audience because the film was entering a lull. The film continually grabs the audience into a state so much that when the audience is driving home in the dark from the theater they would be afraid to go even a couple of miles over the speed limit. Furthermore, they might never look at a mirror the same ever again.
This movie is filmed in a 2.40:1 widescreen format. While it is sourced from an older master, a whole slew of improvements have been made from the prior ViaVision release in 2016. The older disc in comparison had a lack of detail in the people’s faces and defining features. It also had this weird greenish tint that I never could figure out if that was a result of bad mastering or some weird authoring decision. Thankfully, that’s all been cleaned up in this release.
Faces feel natural in this blu-ray release, the film has a warmth (while not losing its sinister focus) that you can clearly understand the events as they occur. I happen to also own the deluxe DVD set and while the green tint was not present in that version, it is considerably darker and that’s been lightened up here but not in a way that takes away from the film.
This new release is the best this film has looked and there is a huge improvement over the two prior releases. Perhaps there is an argument to keep the dvd set if you feel that’s closer to the director’s vision but for my money, I will go with this Imprint release all day long and the quality really shows.
The sound to this film is presented in both DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio as well as PCM 2.0 in English. In both prior releases, we only managed a 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. The result was decent but this has also been far exceeded here. Take the bridge scene as an example, the music comes in discreetly and then we are treated to a blast from both the left and the right of our sound field as multiple cars beep as the intensity starts to pick up. The surround is excellent and it finally has the jump and immersion that I did not know I was missing (I never was fortunate enough to see it in the theaters).
Dialog is clear and as already mentioned the film’s music & sound effects play a wonderful role in striking the right balance in the movie. If I was going to pick, I would almost say it is too much at times, but honestly I think that the audio in the dvd or last release of the blu-ray was just inadequate. Subtitles are provided here in English HOH (same as SDH). This does differ slightly from the dvd as it had Spanish and French subtitles as well (and a French Language track too).
Notes: For the soundtrack seekers out there, this is finally not a difficult grab. There are only two versions of the CD (one made in the US and one made in the Europe) and they are identical. It’s two cds with first being the single from Low and the rest of the cd coming from King Black Acid. Then the second cd is the score. It should run you around $15, maybe $20 at the most.
Audio Commentary by Director Mark Pellington: This is the legacy commentary from the dvd’s special edition as he excruciating goes over how he shot every scene in the 18 months from start to finish. By the way, Debra Messing in the shower is not Debra Messing, it was some exotic dancer. Dream, crushed. He explains how he really highlighted sound in every facet of the movie. There is talk of the significance of numbers throughout the movie and how you make a phone into a character in the film. The commentary is a little bit dry and I would have preferred it a little more anecdotal but it is full of information.
Ninety Nine Will Die: Directing the Mothman Prophecies – An Interview with Director Mark Pellington 22:43: I actually prefer this new interview to his commentary. Here Mark is a lot more conversational and shares stories from his time on set. He talks about how he was working on Arlington Road (which I will need to grab a copy of) when he was first offered Mothman Prophecies, and he even turned it down a couple of times before reshaping it on his own and then accepting the position of directing it. He also talks about the stars and finally shares with us that one of the biggest scares was actually a goof.
Nocturnal Butterfly: Editing the Mothman Prophecies – An Interview with Editor Brian Berdan 13:17: Brian tells us that the first read is key to everything. We go over the traumatic car scene and how they used a simple voice recorder to make various audio effects that are used in the film. We also get a lot of good information on the Bridge scene and the use of storyboards to create the scene that we received.
What Do You See?: Designing the Mothman Prophecies – An Interview with Production Designer Richard Hoover 15:05: Richard goes into great detail about Kittanning, Pennsylvania which ended up standing in for Point Pleasant as far as shooting goes. He also goes over the various places from that town that would be the focal point of the most important scenes. It’s always interesting the reasons they give when they shoot on location but it’s not the actual location of the movie if that makes sense.
Don’t Be Afraid: Composing the Mothman Prophecies – An Interview with Composers Tomandandy 9:22: Here we listen to how the two composers created their sound and achieved another layer or pulse if you will to achieve their effect. It really helps you appreciate the sound and I realized that it was a crime I didn’t have this soundtrack in my collection.
Making of Featurette 15:03: Archival fluff piece but it’s one of the few sections where we get to talk to the various stars of the film such as Richard Gere, Laura Linney and so forth. We get some history behind the film as well as explaining the bridge sequence more in depth.
“Half Light” Music Video by Low 4:28: The band Low was actually formed in 1994 and even released an album as recent as 2018 (seventeen albums in all). Their style can be described as indie rock, slowcore, and dream popish. It’s a good little song and while I don’t think I would like the band overall, it really plays to the mood of the film.
Search for the Mothman Documentary 43:39: Decent older documentary that goes over real people who have claimed to see the Mothman. We visit with a couple of authors Loren Coleman and John Keel who take us through how this apparition came into popular culture and the ramifications of the various sightings. It feels very Discovery channel-ish but I say that in a good way. Lots of information presented here that you can choose to believe or not.
“Day by Day” A Director’s Journey Pt1 : The Road In Documentary 30:04: Mark Pellington and his crew member, Jason Free gives basically an on-set making of documentary. It starts in September of 2000 where we learn about the struggles of Art versus Commerce. It’s all about compromises and balances. We get to see how they scouted locations and then some cast rehearsals/table reads with Richard Gere and Laura Linney. We also get to watch them shoot early scenes such as the hospital.
“Day by Day” A Director’s Journey Pt2 : The Road Home Documentary 30:04: In this second part, they are well into production and apparently this does lead to some war of the words and even a push that’s discussed by Mark between him and his producer, Richard Wright. This also goes over editing and finishes up with the last days of Principal Photography in June of 2002. I really liked this documentary, it gave us a lot of insight into filming a picture but also made the whole process human too.
Deleted Scenes 12:14: If I counted correctly (the extras do well with chapter stops except for the deleted scenes), there are five different deleted scenes here. The first one is the town of Point Pleasant one night looking for visions of the Mothman. Then the second one (about 4:30 in), is John Klein driving to the chemical plant. Third, about 7 minutes is Connie and Denise Smallwood (played by Lucinda Jenney) after church talking about Gordon. Fourth, 8 1/2 minutes in is John Klein at the Comfort Inn and he receives some not so comforting messages from the clerk. Finally, at the 10 minute mark, John Klein arrives at the airport in what I believe to be an alternate ending of sorts and smiles at the people around him only to realize there are no further premonitions and he can resume a normal life.
Theatrical Trailer 2:18: Standard theatrical trailer that makes sure to get their product placement of Chapstick in. It does the job but there is nothing that stands out about it either.
Stills Gallery 6:22: A collection of sketches, storyboards and stills. No movie posters though unfortunately.
Notes: All of the extras from the special edition dvd are here along with the new interviews as mentioned. The only thing I can find that was left off was some interviews that were found on the UK version of the DVD with Gere, Linney, and Patton. I’m guessing rights probably hindered that one being included on this disc. (if anyone has this disc, I would appreciate knowing if they are worth tracking down).
Further Notes: For those of you who are new to Imprint films or Viavision Entertainment, they are an Australian Blu-ray maker and typically do an LE slipcase for each of their releases for the first 1500-2000 copies. They also use clear cases (wide type similar to Criterions). It really makes for a nice package. They can be found at https://viavision.com.au/imprint-films/.
This film never did too well in the box office as it didn’t even break the top five films for its first week and only grossing ~36 million domestically and ~55 million worldwide. It wasn’t until it had been in the home market for a while that it began to develop a cult like status due to its subject matter and presentation. I have probably seen the movie about half a dozen times or so now and it still grabs me in its characters and gripping story that draws you in until the bitter end. Throw that in with wonderful performances all around that never run over each other and you really have an underappreciated classic of suspense films.
The Imprint disc from ViaVision is something I finally feel is worthy of this great film. The video and audio are out of this world compared to previous releases and the extras (over 5 hours) are really something special with some new key interviews and a host of legacy material that really take you inside the director’s head as well as into the mystery of the Mothman. I give this package a huge recommendation and just a warning. If your car dies and you suddenly find yourself in a city with no knowledge of how you get there, do not knock on some random person’s door. Get to town, find another means of transport and get the heck out of there. Helpful hints to live by, and enjoy.