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Featured DVD Review: Mothman

October 24th, 2011

Mothman - Buy from Amazon

Mothman is a Syfy original movie, which automatically lowers expectations. I'm not saying the station has never made anything that was entertaining, but when they are on their own, they tend to release films that are entertainingly bad (Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus) rather than entertaining in a critically successful way. Will this film rise above the pack?

The Movie

The film begins years ago with a group of friends (Richard, Jared, Derek, Sally, Kate, Mindy, Casey and Jamie) celebrating their upcoming graduation by camping out at a local, out of the way swimming hole. They are mostly just swimming and relaxing. Katharine is worried that after graduation the friends will drift apart. Jamie, the younger brother of Jared, is getting a little out of hand, so later that night, they go for some night swimming and prank him. Something goes wrong and he drowns. While Kate wants to go for help, the others decide to cover-up his death and make it look like he hit his head while diving.

We jump ahead ten years and Katharine is living in Washington, D.C. working as a reporter. She's doing fluff pieces, but her boss is giving her a bigger assignment. He wants her to travel back home to Point Pleasant and do a story on the Mothman legend and the festival that has grown up around it. It will be the first time she's gone back there in a decade and she's not looking forward to ever going back. When she gets back, she runs into one of her old friends, Derek, who mentions the rest of the gang is having drinks that night, as a memorial to Jamie. She arrived on the tenth anniversary of his death. While Derek is glad to see her again, the rest of her friends are not. Writing fluff for a small newspaper isn't exactly a plum job, but it's better than the rest managed. They think she escaped punishment.

While at their small memorial, Jared freaks out a bit after seeing red eyes looking at him in the reflection of the bar table. For those who don't know the legend of the Mothman, it's an owl. But according to cryptozoologists, the Mothman is a man sized creature with red glowing eyes and a vast wingspan. Jared knows the legend, having grown up there, and races home, loads his shotgun, throws some clothes into a bag and tries to get the hell out of town. It's too late for him and the Mothman reaches out of the side of his camper and that's the end of him.

The next day Katharine and Derek go to check on him, but don't see his body or what little is left of his body. Instead they head to the festival, where Kate interviews a few of the locals for her story. A scary old woman warns her that the Mothman will come to cleanse the town with the blood of sinners. A scary old man, Frank, tells her of the origins of the Mothman, who first attacked after a prank turned deadly. Later that night, Richard is in his office at the bar. Overcome with guilt he plans to kill himself, but before he can, the Mothman appears out of a mirror and kills him. Sally, who is his bartender, hears the attack happen, but before she can do anything, the Mothman appears to her and she tries to get the hell out of town. (She makes it farther than Jared did, but not far enough.) When Kate and Derek go to the bar, Kate sees that Richard had started to write something on the floor, in his own blood, "Mothm". It doesn't take a genius to figure out what he meant.

The next day Katharine goes to Frank's place to ask him what else he knows about the Mothman, and how to stop it. But is it too late?

For most of the film's running time, Mothman is a decent movie. It is certainly above average for Syfy in nearly every regard. The acting is better than a lot of similar TV movies with Jewel Staite leading the cast. The monster looks like a CG creature and doesn't exactly blend in naturally with the live action shots. However, it looks cool enough to be an asset to the film, especially when mostly hidden or when it is used judiciously. There's enough gore to satisfy the requirement, although it is a TV movie, so it is closer to PG-13 level in that area. Also, there's a detailed enough mythology built up that it can sustain a film, even if this information is given by a cliché crazy old man. Unfortunately, whatever goodwill is built up over the first hour is destroyed in the end.

Near the end of the film, there's a surprise twist that is not going to surprise many people. But that's not the worst part. The worst part is when Casey gets captured by the Mothman, only to return a few scenes later. "I thought you were dead." "So did I." No other explanation is given. Are you kidding me? I was willing to give the film a solid recommendation until that happened. After that, it's hard to care what happens to the characters, because you've already been cheated by the filmmakers once, so there's no assurances they won't cheat you again.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD.

The Verdict

My expectations for Mothman were really low, but given the usually quality for Syfy, I don't think you can blame me. For most of the film's running time, I was pleasantly surprised and it looked like I would be able to recommend the film. But with that "What the hell?" moment near the end and a featureless DVD, it's only worth a rental for fans of the genre. ... Unless you are a really big Jewel Staite fan.

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