The Mothman Legacy


Beware the Mothman.

(2020) Documentary (1091Lyle 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

The Anatomy of Monsters


A tete-a-tete among sociopaths.

A tete-a-tete among sociopaths.

(2014) Thriller (Artsploitation) Tabitha Bastien, Jesse Lee Keeter, Conner Marx, Keiko Green, Satori Marill, Tori McDonough, Lauren Brooks-Wilson, Andrew Tribolini, Asher Vast, Natalie Miller, Nick Frank, Tammy Miller, Ken Miller, Andre Kirkman, Roxanne Nihiline, E. J. Bastien, Dave Shecter, Simone Leorin, Alex Upton, Meredith Binder. Directed by Byron C. Miller

 

How can you tell who the monsters are? They don’t come with fangs and claws, after all. That handsome, clean-cut guy on the blind date could be a sadistic rapist; the beautiful, sweet girl-next-door sort could take great pleasure in destroying the lives of others. You just never know who is going to turn out to be a sociopath.

Andrew (Keeter) looks like a frat guy at first glance, like the preppy from Connecticut slumming down in the city…or in Seattle, as the case is here. He gets dressed and heads out to the bars to find that just right girl. And it appears he’s found her in Sarah (T. Bastien) who is obviously interested and carries her sexual hunger like a Vera Wang handbag. She even has a pair of handcuffs, which she obligingly puts on in the hotel room she’s rented for the two of them. That’s when he pulls out a wicked-looking knife.

But Sarah has some secrets of her own, starting when she was just a kid who found her jollies in killing her pet kitties, moving through her teen years when she maimed a romantic rival right through when she was an adult when she discovered the joys of taking down bigger prey – the two legged variety. Which one of these two is the predator and which is the prey? Don’t think that the answer is a simple one.

I like this concept immensely and it could have made for a chilling, thrilling good time. Unfortunately, the filmmakers didn’t have the experience to pull this off effectively. The pacing is all over the board; some scenes feel like the writer just couldn’t wait to get to the end of the scene and move on to more weighty matters; other scenes are excruciatingly drawn out. While it’s possible the filmmakers were going for an effect of putting the viewer off-balance, it just came off to this viewer as undisciplined and poorly edited.

Also gaining some negative points is the score; quite frankly, the soundtrack is intrusive and ineffective at establishing a mood. It sounded like the composer was trying too hard to set a mood, using menacing organ riffs to establish tension, and a bouncy soft rock background when Sarah and her boyfriend Nick (Marx) are together. A good soundtrack doesn’t create the mood; it enhances it and that’s something composer Paul Morgan needs to learn.

Tabitha Bastien (not to be confused with E.J. who plays a one-night stand for Sarah) takes control of the movie early on as we realize that the original focus on Andrew has shifted to Sarah. That’s not altogether a bad thing; Tabitha certainly has the screen charisma to carry the film. Although at times she’s given some really florid dialogue to mouth, most of the time the dialogue is well-written and sounds the way people talk, or at least the way I’d think a pair of serial killers might talk if they were to have a conversation; ‘Hey Ted Bundy.’ ‘Hey Jeffrey Dahmer.’ ‘Rough day at the office?’ “It was murder.’

One of the biggest mood killers is that the murders themselves are unconvincing. At one point a baseball bat is taken to a sleeping father, but the blows look like bunts rather than grand slams. There’s no force behind them and it absolutely takes the viewer out of the picture. I get that the filmmakers were operating on a minuscule budget but at least they can get the actors to slam the bat into a pillow and add the sound effects in post. If you want to do a realistic look at serial killers, you had better make everything realistic or else it just won’t fly.

This was a movie that sounds better on the printed page then it unspools on the screen. It’s available free for Amazon Prime users and if you are a lover of all things slasher you might give it a try if you have that service available. Otherwise, you need to be a very patient and understanding viewer, knowing that this is the work of relatively new filmmakers. There is certainly room for improvement but if they can keep the good concepts coming their execution will catch up to their imagination eventually.

WHY RENT THIS: The concept is intriguing. Tabitha Bastien makes a compelling lead.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Some of the murder sequences were unconvincing. The film felt a little bit rushed in places and overly drawn out in others.
FAMILY VALUES: You’ll find some gore, violence, adult themes, sexual content and some profanity here.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The working title of the film was The Witching Hour but was dropped in favor of its current title.
NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.
SITES TO SEE: Amazon Prime, Vimeo, YouTube
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: Not available.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back