Somewhat heavy-handed with stock “boo!” tactics, “Mothman's” unnerving story nevertheless generates a legitimate creepy air that will have viewers peering over their shoulders apprehensively as they leave the theatre.
Gere is John Klein, a successful Washington Post reporter who suffers a freak accident with his wife Mary (Debra Messing) from which she eventually dies. Haunted by Mary's mysterious vision and the unsettling drawings that she made before dying, John nevertheless has no reason to connect them with his strange arrival two years later in the small West Virginia town of Point Pleasant, 400 miles from his intended destination. Informed by local cop Connie Parker (Laura Linney) that the community is in the throes of strange sightings and disturbing encounters with a creature that bears an unusual resemblance to a giant moth, John finds himself caught up in an investigation of the phenomena and, horrifyingly, finds a link with his wife's death.
Based on John A. Keel's book of the true events in Point Pleasant in the mid-1960s (though the film is set in the 1990s), “Mothman Prophecies” extends the mystery and legend of the eerie sightings of a creature whose glowing red eyes left searing burn scars on a number of witnesses. Pellington (who did a memorable turn helming 1999's thriller “Arlington Road”) hits all the right notes of dread and foreboding before socking it to viewers, yet does the right thing in never quite fully showing the “mothman,” eliciting enough voltage from doors closing or phones ringing to leave viewers limp. The cranked-up volume and jarring cuts are piled on thickly, but Pellington never wavers from the story's inherent creepiness and intertwined events.
A bit creaky-looking these days, Gere is still fine as John, although his all-black wardrobe makes him appear amusingly similar to the very ghouls he's chasing. As Connie, Linney initially appears as startling double of Frances McDormand's Marge Gunderson in Fargo and one wonders what she's doing in this “X-file”-like thriller. Her low-key performance and stoic appeal prove bracing, however, and also provide a welcome contrast to Gere's increasingly emotionally pitched exhibition. A pleasantly shaggy Alan Bates provides a solid, if brief, show as a terrified author of a parapsychology book who eventually assists John. Starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. Directed by Mark Pellington. Written by Richard Hatem. Produced by Gary W. Goldsten, Gary Lucchesi and Tom Rosenberg. A Screen Gems release. Thriller. Rated PG-13 for terror, some sexuality and language. Running time: 118 min