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Heroes of the Zeroes: The Mothman Prophecies

by on July 25, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“The Mothman Prophecies”
Rated PG-13

Unsolved paranormal mysteries entertain because they’re impersonal — folklore fragments passed down over flickering flames that scare without scarring. It can be fun to let blood run cold over a campfire story that couldn’t happen to us.

But what about the people who swear they weren’t high or hysterical in the presence of unexplainable phenomena such as headless dogs or wailing banshees — people to whom something happened to create these stories?

Based on actual events, Mark Pellington’s eloquently eerie “The Mothman Prophecies” revived the near-sadistic patience and claustrophobia of his “Arlington Road.” Plus, working in a genre where light often offers respite from terror, Pellington fiendishly exploited its properties as a false sense of security.

Richard Gere’s late-career year in 2002 kicked off with his role as John Klein, a journalist inexplicably drawn to Point Pleasant, W. Va. There, townsfolk descriptions of “the Mothman” — a freakishly tall, winged man named Indrid Cold — correspond to a creature his wife (Debra Messing) has drawn in her journal. (A moment when John and Indrid Cold “speak” on a hotel phone shoots ice through the veins.)

Like a fantastic feature-length “X-Files” episode, “Mothman’s” stylish bleakness kept audiences off-balance with an unreliable narrator and an unforgettable conclusion. Did grief, obsession and bad luck play hallucinatory hell with Point Pleasant’s residents, or was Indrid Cold really a harbinger of doom?

The more “The Mothman Prophecies” accelerates its rant-and-rave paranoia, the greater it gets, and this is a campfire-ready chiller whose subconscious embers glow long after it’s over.

No trailer here. Too many spoilers. Bad, Hollywood! Bad!