Bugged Out

It's not exactly a horror film and it's not really science fiction. Perhaps the best way to describe "The Mothman Prophecies" is a supernatural mystery. Whatever it is, it's damn creepy.

Richard Gere plays Washington Post reporter John Klein. Two years after the death of his wife (Debra Messing) following a bizarre auto accident, Klein finds himself stranded in Point Pleasant, W.Va., with no memory of how he got there. Knocking on the nearest door for help, he's greeted by a rifle-toting stranger (Will Patton) who claims that Klein has been lurking outside his house night after night.

Klein soon discovers from the local police officer (Laura Linney) that inexplicable occurrences are commonplace in this town. There are sightings of a winged, birdlike presence. Whatever it is, it seems to be able to predict global catastrophes. Creepier still, the drawings people make of this red-eyed, mothlike creature are the same as those his wife made before she died.

There's a factual basis for Richard Hatem's fictional screenplay: newspaperman John A. Keel's 1974 book, "The Mothman Prophecies," delves into numerous sightings that occurred in Point Pleasant in the 1960s. But director Mark ("Arlington Road") Pellington's stylishly eerie movie would be just as effective without this knowledge. Using shadows and strikingly designed sounds, he skillfully creates an atmosphere of otherworldly, invisible menace. Gere and Linney, both solid, dance around the edges of a romance. Alan Bates contributes a juicy cameo as a spooked-out scientist. Pellington knows, as did the 1940s master of horror Val Lewton, that what you don't see can raise far more goose bumps than what you do.