(2020) Documentary (1091) Lyle Blackburn (narrator), Jeff Wamsley, Ron Lankham, Les O’Dell, Richard Hatem, Ashley Wamsley, Susan Sheppard, Jack Patrick, Lyn Cornwall Robinson, Marilyn Brokaw-Hall. Directed by Seth Breedlove
It is certain that we are fascinated by urban – and rural – legends. Creepypasta figures like Slenderman have taken urban mythmaking into the 21st century, but these legends have been around for much longer than even the Internet.
Sightings in Point Pleasant, West Virginia of a large winged man-sized bipedal figure with glowing red eyes began in the mid-1960s and came to a head with the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge which killed 46 people. Since then, the Mothman has been assigned the trait of harbinger of death (one other later sighting is tied in the film to a jet crash).
Some might remember the 2002 movie The Mothman Prophecies starring Richard Gere which is concerned with the 1966 sightings of the creature, but the movie was based on a book by author John Keel; we don’t actually get to hear from the author, but the book figures heavily in the mythology and its effect on the town is discussed in much detail.
In fact, Breedlove does a good job of setting up the story by giving us a history lesson on West Virginia; how the area was settled by Scottish and Irish immigrants who brought their legends from home with them – elements of various Celtic creatures including the banshee are discussed. There are interviews here with the proprietor of the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant and his daughter, with the screenwriter for The Mothman Prophecies and various citizens of the town including a few who had encounters with the creature themselves.
While the popularity of the movie brought notoriety to Point Pleasant which it continues to exploit, the town is certainly in a bind as the coal industry has taken a nosedive. However, the documentary feels curiously incomplete; there is little physical evidence and although we are taken to various locations where sightings took place, we don’t get a sense of uneasiness or anything supernatural. We see some watercolor representations of the Mothman but there are no photographs of the creature in existence, nor is there a whole lot of corroborating evidence of it here.
I get the sense that much of the information about the Mothman is easily available online, so those who are already interested enough in the creature to watch a documentary on it likely have most of this information already, but for those who aren’t familiar with it, this makes for a good stepping stone into the urban myth. It could have been organized a little bit better, but if you’re looking for convincing evidence of the existence of the Mothman, this ain’t it.
REASONS TO SEE: Very informative on an obscure subject.
REASONS TO AVOID: Gets a little bit dry.
FAMILY VALUES: This are some frightening images.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The town of Point Pleasant capitalizes on the fame of the Mothman with a Mothman Museum open seven days a week (for which you can take a virtual tour here) and puts on an annual Mothman Festival (the next one is scheduled for September 18 and 19, 2021).
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/11/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Mothman Prophecies
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT: She is the Ocean