Monday, April 4, 2011

Eyes of the Mothman (now on home video)

[EYES OF THE MOTHMAN is now available on home video.]
Review by Bob Ignizio

That there were some strange occurrences in and around the small West Virginia town of Point Pleasant between November of 1966 and December of 1967 is undeniable. Exactly what went on depends on how you choose to interpret and explain the evidence and eyewitness accounts. A number of seemingly honest and reliable individuals reported seeing a large humanoid being with glowing red eyes and huge wings. There were also UFO sightings, and Men In Black were spotted hanging around the town. Whether or not there is any connection between these things, the strange events began to subside after the Silver Bridge that connected Point Pleasant to Ohio collapsed, taking the lives of 46 people.

Whether you believe anything paranormal happened in Point Pleasant or not, it makes for an undeniably fascinating tale, seemingly a natural fit for the movies. In 2002 there was a dramatized Hollywood film, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, that was loosely based on the allegedly non-fiction 1975 book of the same name by John Keel. The film changed dates and other details considerably, though. Now director Matthew J. Pellowski aims to deliver a more accurate and comprehensive take on the subject, as least as much as that's possible, with his documentary EYES OF THE MOTHMAN.

When I say Pellowski wants to be comprehensive, I mean it. This movie clocks in at 2 1/2 hours. Unless you're particularly interested in this case, and really want to know as much about the details and speculations surrounding it as possible, you'll likely find your patience tested. Right off the bat, the film spends way too much time on the “Curse of Chief Cornstalk”, a local legend that some Point Pleasant residents use to explain just about anything strange or unlucky that happens in the town. It's not without interest, but Pellowski never makes his case that it's relevant to Mothman. The movie then spends considerable time on the history of the “TNT area”, the location where most of the Mothman sightings took place. This is relevant stuff, to be sure, but probably a bit too much of it for all but the most die-hard of Mothman enthusiasts.

For better or worse, EYES OF THE MOTHMAN approaches its subject matter as a believer. There are a few token mentions of attempts to provide rational explanations for some of the events covered, but these feel like token mentions at best. Interviewing a noted skeptic like Joe Nickel, author of the article “Mothman Solved!”, would have helped give the film some balance. Also, surprisingly, there is no mention whatsover of John Keel, whose book first brought the Mothman to national prominence. Nor is noted UFOlogist Gray Barker mentioned, even though he figures into events as well. I realize both men are sadly departed and thus, unavailable for interviews. Still, at least some recognition that no one outside of Point Pleasant would likely still care about Mothman all these years later without them seems warranted.

In the end, EYES OF THE MOTHMAN needs both a little bit less and a little bit more to be the last word on its subject. That said, it does provide a wealth of information for those interested in Mothman. The interviews with eyewitnesses and other people who actually lived in Point Pleasant during the time Mothman was supposedly doing his thing alone make this film invaluable for anyone interested in this bit of weirdness. For the most part, Pellowski goes with the “talking heads” school of documentary filmmaking, but he does attempt some historical recreations. While these staged scenes are by no means Hollywood caliber, neither does Pellowski embarrass himself with them. The pacing may drag a bit, but everything is shot and edited well. Serious Mothman aficionados should add an extra 1/2 star to my rating. Everyone else... 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.

1 comment:

  1. A friend of mine who was a childhood friend of the writer William Vollmann was totally into the Mothman stuff in high school. He started makin' people jumpy about it. Something about an unemployed Swedish milkman was involved.


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