Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2002. Lakeshore Entertainment. Screenplay by Richard Hatem. Cinematography by Fred Murphy. Produced by Gary W. Goldstein, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg. Music by tomandandy. Production Design by Richard Hoover. Costume Design by Susan Lyall. Film Editing by Brian Berdan.
Richard Gere plays a reporter for the Washington Post who is involved in a tragic accident when his wife (Debra Messing) loses control of their car and crashes it. In the hospital she tells him that she saw something that made her veer off the road and cause the collision, but it isn’t until after her death that he looks at drawings she’s made of a moth-like monster and deduces that this is what appeared to her. Flash forward to two years later and he’s on the road to an interview with an important governor, but after one hour of driving mysteriously ends up in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, a small town that from Washington should have taken him six hours or so to get to. His car breaks down, and he shows up at Will Patton and Lucinda Jenney‘s door asking to use the phone only to be told by Patton that he’s done the same thing three nights in a row, even though our protagonist insists he has never seen them before. The kind sherriff (Laura Linney) who shows up to assist eventually reveals to Gere that many strange things have been happening in their little town, most of them revolving around the sightings of a strange man with a moth-like appearance who shows up in people’s backyards and gives them futuristic predictions of terrible disasters. Things get even hairier for Gere when his wife starts popping up places and leaving messages for him to follow. Here is where the film takes an interesting turn: the story becomes less about discovering the identity of a mysterious monster and more about examining the possible choice that Gere has to either indulge in his grief and let it pull him down into a paranormal world he won’t survive, or turn his back on a situation that he cannot do anything to either help or explain. Reportedly based on true events, the film is totally successful thanks to director Mark Pellington’s eerie atmosphere, one which never worked in his Arlington Road and yet here couldn’t be better suited. Pellington keeps the revelations to a minimum and instead builds suspense in every scene, placing enough logical ambiguity to put you equally in Gere’s position of half belief and half cynicism until the crucial moment when he is faced with the reality of what he’s dealing with, and then your hair will really stand straight on end. Linney couldn’t be better suited to the role, and she and Gere have an excellent rapport with each other on screen (much better than in Primal Fear).