The Mothman Prophecies

Monday, August 26, 2002

Mark Pellington is obviously the most aggressive cut/fade/dissolve/scene transition guy working on the major circuit right now, and Mothman Prophecies is a moderately interesting exercise in Shyamalanamism distinguished by its style, an application of slickness applied throughout - but nowhere more evident than in Pellington's use of shape-cuts to establish a kind of physically manifested motif.

Which is all well and good, if not especially revolutionary. It's Pellington's aggression that sets Mothman Prophecies apart, and the constant use of his preferred shapes and forms, so heavily used that it becomes less a stylistic choice than a defining aspect of the film: Pellington's going to use this cut, and he's going to use it a lot, and he's going to use it in so many ways and at so many differing levels of abstraction that you're going to come away with this cut as one of the major characters, to the point where it should probably get a screen credit.

Which is fine. The nicest way for the viewer to use this in some kind of constructive way, somehow to augment the creepiness (of which there's just a little bit), to tie the visual trademark to the atmosphere/plot (mostly the same here), is to watch it a second time. No matter how hard Pellington brought the transition in, how many consecutive cuts featured it and how closely you associated it with the first viewing, you find that Pellington brought it earlier, more, before you noticed it, and you start looking for more. You see the obvious ones, maybe enjoy the way Pellington sneaks it up before he bangs it out - but then there's another one, maybe. It's a little more subtle, but it's there. Then there's another - or is that naturally occurring? Too simple, formally, not to occur by chance in nature, even if no framed shot is an accident, and you start wondering not whether Pellington's doing it on purpose, but whether you're really seeing it in gnarled branches or it's just eagerness to see something that might be there, and any time a monster flick gets you wondering if you're really seeing something in gnarled branches, it's okay by me.

Reviewed by Matthew Abrams
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