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Eyes of the Mothman

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Eyes of the Mothman

Red Line Studios

There is an esoteric history of America that is often dismissed as folklore and myth—a collection of weirdo creatures and happenings that, typically speaking, happen upon bumpkins and farmers and slowly build themselves into the country’s cultural fabric. Matthew Pellowski’s Eyes of the Mothman explores, at length, one of these strange histories as it was reported in Point Pleasant, W. Va., in 1966.

Pellowski’s 2007 documentary, out now on DVD, dives far more into the legend than the campfire tales and old lore. Pellowski gives every possible explanation and cryptic connection involving the sighting of a red-eyed, bird-like monster made famous in John Keel’s 1975 nonfiction book The Mothman Prophecies. In 2002,it was made into a feature film of the same name starring bodhisattva superstar Richard Gere, earning mixed reviews for its believability and execution.

What Eyes lacks in Gere it makes up for in breadth, beginning with a snapshot of the rural riverside town before heading into the meat of the tale. Narrated by the astute and haunting voice of Richard Pait, the documentary, droningly slow at points, explores Point Pleasant’s sordid past and a supposed curse laid upon the town due to the murder of Chief Cornstalk. Pellowski continually teases the viewer, and doesn’t get into the cryptozoology until first giving the town its due justice. He goes on to explain how Point Pleasant housed “igloos” of TNT during World War II, which, after a time, began having an adverse effect on the local environment. The abandoned TNT plant off the highway would eventually become a haven for Mothman sightings.

The theories only roll on from there. There are suddenly mysterious men in black seen around town, lights attributed to UFOs in the sky, a mysterious grinning man named Indrid Cold, dinosaur and mutant bird theories, and, eventually, the eerie collapse of the Silver Bridge in December 1967. All in all, Eyes is much in the same vein as an elongated episode of Unsolved Mysteries—complete with the oft-campy reenactments that make you cringe with delight. Call it a guilty pleasure, but Eyes satisfies a very primal need.

The doc ends with a return to Point Pleasant’s eyewitnesses and believers, whom you come to view not as tinfoil-hat-wearing loonies but as people who are simply astounded by the mysteries of the world. It’s beautifully summarized in a single shot where closeups of all the interviewees’ eyes meld together in rapid succession with the telltale red orbs of the Mothman’s own.

Eyes provides more questions than answers, but that is precisely what makes the 155-minute feature so pleasantly endurable. Americans have always had a morbid fascination with the unknown cryptids of rural legend. From Bigfoot to the Chupacabra to the Leeds Devil, the paranormal has been an obsession that never rests, stirring the back of the mind that waits for a film like Pellowski’s to entice and wonder.

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