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The Mothman Prophecies (Blu-ray) (2002)
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Details At A Glance
Featurette-The Search For The Mothman
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Day By Day - A Director's Journey: The Road In
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Day By Day - A Director's Journey: The Road Home
Year Of Production
118:52 (Case: 117)
||Cast & Crew
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††† The Mothman Prophecies more or less plays out like a feature-length episode of The X-Files, as itís concerned with an urban legend thatís based in reality. Adapted from the 1975 book of the same name by John Keel, this supernatural thriller was directed by Mark Pellington, late of 1999ís Arlington Road. The Mothman Prophecies is old-fashioned all the way through to its core, relying more on atmosphere and subtle chills than violence, and it does work to a certain extent. However, since the film was inspired by an unsolved supernatural case, it brings up far more questions than it can answer, and it both meanders and confuses due to the ostensibly random nature of many of its narrative threads. While there is intrigue here, the movie cannot quite come together well enough as a cohesive whole.
††† Even though the story purports to be based on true events that occurred in the late 1960s, the setting is updated to present-day, and follows (fictitious) Washington Post journalist John Klein (Richard Gere). John loses his beloved wife Mary (Debra Messing) to a brain tumor which is discovered after a sudden car accident, and John finds that his wife has been drawing a moth-like creature that she claims she saw on the night of the accident. Two years after Maryís death, John intends to drive down to Richmond one night, but inexplicably winds up in the sleepy town of Point Pleasant, having somehow travelled 400 miles in under two hours with no memory of what happened. Meeting local cop Connie Parker (Laura Linney), John is drawn into the town, where citizens are reporting strange happenings as well as sightings of a tall ďmothmanĒ creature thatís very similar to Maryís drawings.
††† It would be best to approach The Mothman Prophecies as a piece of fiction thatís loosely based on true events, as the script by Richard Hatem is a largely fabricated construction that weaves in a few factual events and as many creepy set-pieces as possible. (Whether by design or not, a number of ďfactsĒ stated by the movie are actually inaccurate.) However, the screenplay refuses to properly connect many of the plot points, and as a result, the film feels all over the place. It seems that it uses the unsolved nature of Mothman as an excuse to avoid answering everything, throwing out random horror conventions with mixed effectiveness. There are serious pacing issues as a result of the movieís haphazard structure, though it does improve to a degree with repeat viewings.
††† To Pellingtonís credit, he generates an unnerving atmosphere throughout the picture, especially with the competent cinematography and his expert use of shadows and sounds, amplified by a terrific soundtrack by tomandandy. The titular Mothman is only really glimpsed subliminally, and the bitterly cold setting helps to build a sense of gloom. The Mothman Prophecies is more of a mood piece than a scare-fest, rendering it a fascinating instance of restrained horror filmmaking. The movieís centrepiece is a stunning disaster climax which recreates the real-life collapse of the Silver Bridge, an event that supposedly brought an end to the strange occurrences in Point Pleasant. It does seem out of place since the rest of the proceedings are so low-key in comparison, but it does well to pull the rug out from underneath us, and it helps that the sequence is so gut-wrenching and riveting, not to mention competent from a technical perspective. A fair chunk of the $32 million budget likely went towards the climax, and the result is wholly worthwhile.
††† Even though Gere is a veteran performer who looks suitably focused here, his John Klein is too much of a blank slate, which is a problem. One cannot help but wonder how much more engaging the film might have been if it was more like The X-Files from a character perspective, and starred endearing actors like David Duchovny or Gillian Anderson who could have injected the story with some humanity. Ultimately, The Mothman Prophecies does have enough merit to make it worth watching, and Pellingtonís command of the screen is remarkable, but the material fails to properly serve the filmmaker.
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††† This is the first time that The Mothman Prophecies has debuted on Blu-ray in any English-speaking region, arriving courtesy of Via Vision with an AVC-encoded, 1080p presentation thatís respectable but nevertheless underwhelming. Itís clear that this is an old master, and it was most likely minted back around the time of the movieís DVD release - I seriously doubt that a new scan was conducted to create this HD master. Therefore, do not expect a razor-sharp, beautifully pristine image, but itís still watchable, in spite of its shortcomings.
††† The movie is available on Blu-ray in Germany, but that particular disc comes with hard-coded German subtitles, making it quite pointless to native English speakers. Although no such hard-coded German subtitles plague this disc, there are a few German titles which appear throughout - most notably for a rather important ď2 Years LaterĒ title card, and a couple of shots of English words on a page. This is quite bizarre, and might turn off potential buyers. This is certainly not the definitive release of the movie as a consequence.
††† The broad strokes of this transfer are about average. Sharpness is usually impressive, with solid object delineation, and detail is acceptable. Close-ups fare best in this respect, with nice facial texturing, but such shots arenít the best that the Blu-ray format can offer. Colours are slightly off and drab, which is probably more of a reflection of the source, but itís a bit of an issue that blacks donít look especially deep or inky. At its best, this transfer looks pretty good, but at its worst, it looks only a few notches above an upscaled DVD.
††† Grain is visible at times to accentuate the detail and make the transfer look more stable, but other moments look too smooth, and there are a number of shots which look noticeably smeary. It does look as if DNR was used in the creation of the transfer, and since this is most likely a DVD-era master, this is hardly surprising. I also detected some light edge enhancement. If this release of The Mothman Prophecies debuted in the earlier days of the format, it would stand as a respectable disc. But with catalogue titles looking better and better, and with quality standards continually increasing, this presentation is undeniably flawed.
††† No subtitles are available.
Video Ratings Summary
††† Bafflingly, the only audio option on this disc is a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, failing to take full advantage of the Blu-ray format. This is 2016, Blu-ray is a decade old, and yet discs can still miss out on HD audio? Even more frustrating is the fact that the German Blu-ray release came packaged with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. This disc retains a few German titles and was visibly sourced from the German master, but it couldnít retain the lossless sound? No excuse.
††† On the whole, the audio is fine, but itís undeniably flat and limp - it definitely lacks the punch, oomph and crispness of a lossless track. Dialogue is so-so; itís easy to hear most of the time, but itís not as clear or as precise as it should be. The track does use the surround channels to nice effect, with subtle atmospherics contributing to the experience. Tomandadyís music is also notable, and luckily it never drowns out any of the sound effects or dialogue. The track is at its strongest for the climactic bridge collapse, with the layered sound design making for immersive viewing.
††† Make no mistake, this is a DVD-level track, but at least itís serviceable.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
††† A comprehensive selection of supplements.
Audio Commentary ††† Director Mark Pellington provides a very open and detailed commentary on his movie, though he does speak in a plain, monotone voice, which might turn some people off. The filmmaker talks about themes, undertones, scene transitions, casting, his approach to directing, time constraints, things that were deleted, and many more issues. Pellington does have a clear passion for his craft and though there are a few silent patches, he almost always has something to discuss. He also says that heís a tremendous fan of DVD extras, and likes being able to provide deleted scenes and insight into the production process. This isnít one of the best audio commentaries Iíve heard, but itís above-average.
Making Of Featurette (SD; 15:03) ††† Rather than anything substantive, this is a very fluffy extended trailer comprised of a whole lot of film clips intercut with interviews talking about the story, the real events, the book, as well as the characters. This is very EPK in nature, and was probably broadcast on TV to promote the movie upon release. Of limited interest, but still a nice inclusion. This extra was clearly sourced from a 4:3 master, as itís presented in full-screen, including the film footage...which also has black bars on the top and bottom to show a widescreen image. It looks weird.
Music Video (SD; 4:28) ††† A music video for the song ďHalf LightĒ by Low. The encode is similar to the previous featurette, with film footage only filling half the screen.
Trailer (SD; 2:19) ††† The movieís trailer, in middling quality. At least itís 16x9 enhanced and fills the screen.
Deleted Scenes (SD; 12:15) ††† A handful of deleted scenes, which are played in one big chunk without any chapter stops or individual scene selection. Quality is very poor and, like many of the other extras on this disc, the video doesnít fill the screen. These scenes are very slow and they were better left cut from the finished movie.
Search For The Mothman Documentary (SD; 43:39) ††† Rather than anything specifically related to the movie or its production, this is a documentary about the real events in Point Pleasant in the late 1960s. This very much feels like a television documentary, with dramatic narration and music, plus the interviewees are on the kooky side. The actual Mothman discussion is hit-and-miss in terms of interest, but the discussion of the Silver Bridge collapse is genuinely fascinating. This is a worthy addition to the disc, and anybody who enjoyed the movie should definitely give this a watch. The doc is presented in 4:3 full-frame, in so-so quality that ironically trumps the quality of the previous film-related extras.
Day By Day - A Directorís Journey: The Road In Documentary (SD; 30:04) ††† Standing in stark contrast against the fluffy making of featurette, this is an incredibly in-depth, honest look at the movieís pre-production period, as well as the first few days of principal photography. Shot with consumer-grade camcorders, this is a very raw documentary with a ďhome movieĒ feel to it, which humanises director Mark Pellington and provides great insight into the production process. Thereís even candid footage of Pellingtonís reaction to last-minute budget cuts, which drove him insane. Captions keep us up to speed on the events we are seeing, as well as the production timeline and other bits of trivia, while Pellington constantly talks to the camera about his thoughts at any given time. This is fascinating stuff. Even if you didnít like the movie, this is worth watching.
Day By Day - A Directorís Journey: The Road Home Documentary (SD; 30:05) ††† A continuation of the previous documentary, this is a behind-the-scenes look at the remainder of the shoot, which was documented quite thoroughly by Jason Free and director Pellington. Many of the less glamorous aspects of filmmaking are uncovered here, with Pellington losing his cool on-set, and with crew expressing their frustrations. The director even becomes less enthusiastic about talking to the camera. This documentary follows the production all the way through to wrapping, though the material concerning the final half of the shoot is very rushed and truncated, and I would have liked to have seen more. There could have easily been another one or two of these documentaries, but I am thankful to have these two remarkable extras on the disc.
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† † This disc contains the most comprehensive selection of extras seen on home video to date. However, the lossless audio on the German disc does give it an edge, though the hard-coded German subtitles is a major drawback. Call it a draw.
††† The Mothman Prophecies has its merits, but it could have been superior with a stronger screenplay. Via Vision's Blu-ray release is a mixed bag, with average video and a disappointing lossy audio track, but the enormous amount of extras is satisfying. It's worth a look.
© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Monday, July 11, 2016
|DVD||PlayStation 4, using HDMI output|
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|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
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|Speakers||LG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W|