Two years after his wife scrawled pictures of a moth-like creature while dying of a brain tumour, reporter John Klein finds himself in a small American town, unable to explain how he got there. He investigates a rash of Mothman sightings and becomes convinced that a disaster is about to strike.
Until now, Mothman has been a lesser-known member of the cryptozoology Hall Of Fame, eclipsed by Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the anal-probing alien greys.
John Keel's book, recounting his 1967 experiences with the phenomenon, has been around since 1975, but Mothman hasn't even managed a guest shot on The X-Files until this star vehicle.
It may be that the mythology is just too nebulous - the apparition seems related to the Irish banshee, showing up to foretell tragedy - to make a film subject. This movie certainly deploys a lot of unrelated spook stuff (as puzzling as it is creepy) before turning to more conventional suspense-disaster material for a Mothman-free, satisfying finish.
Following 1999's Arlington Road, this is the second Mark Pellington film in a row to concern a professional widower, hung up on his wifeÆs mysterious death, who sees a vast web of shadow conspiracy and becomes a prophet of doom.
However, Gere delivers a very different reading to Jeff Bridges' obvious nut. Sleek and grey in a coat that gives him his very own moth-look, Gere's sincerity and intelligence sells the Fortean bizarre far more than Alan Bates' unfortunate cameo in the traditional, discredited, mad professor role. John Klein is a rare paranoid who knows how others are likely to react to his story, and always advances cautiously as he makes the connections.
The film offers a sustained deployment of weirdness connected by mood and imagery, including buzzing phone messages from something which calls itself 'Idris Gold' and ambiguous sightings of the Mothman. There's even a Lynchian thing going on in which a farmer (Patton) mysteriously claims Klein has visited him three nights in a row as he shows up for his first visit.
Unsettling for a while but has a severe dead-spot before the action climax. Gere does a great deal in solo scenes with no dialogue, suggesting that he might not be as alone in the dark as he seems.