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Film Review: Moth (2016)

SYNOPSIS:

A teacher and her student travel to the European countryside to investigate 22 recent Mothman sighting reports, but what begins as an attempt to stop a catastrophe becomes a nightmarish fight for survival.

REVIEW:

Following on from their 2014 effort Bodom, Hungarian directors Gergö Elekes and József Gallai return to the found footage well. Whereas Bodom saw the horrors on screen being based in part on a series of real life murders, Moth takes its lead from the ‘popular’ urban legend The Mothman. I’m throwing quotes around the word ‘popular’ there, because I literally don’t know anyone who is that deep into the mythos. There’s the movie starring Richard Gere and then the book on which the movie starring Richard Gere was based on, and that’s it. It’s no sasquatch, I can tell you that for nothing.

The Mothman has always been seen as a prophet of doom and, despite being a predominantly West Virginia based legend of yore, London based lecturer Thora (Lídia Szabó) is convinced there have been sightings of the Mothman all over the globe. In particular, Hungary. Theorizing that the world is due another prophesized catastrophe, Thora asks for volunteers to share petrol money and expenses as she set off to uncover the truth. The only person willing to come with her is Adam (József Gallai), a hilariously grumpy mature student from Sweden. Adam likes mysteries and hates smiling, Thora likes amateur theatrics and talking about amateur theatrics, and when they get together… Hungary look out! Okay, perhaps I’m overegging the pudding.

Bodom was, to quote from myself, ‘headache inducing and frustrating.’ The leads fought too much, with very little explanation of what was going on and even less tension. In its native Hungary, Bodom was a big hit and so, perhaps unsurprisingly, Elekes and Gallai have gone with the old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ In fact, if you sat this critic down and provided solid evidence that this was originally a first draft of Bodom – or even a sequel of some sorts – I would not be the least bit surprised. Moth is essentially Bodom remade with an alternate ending tacked on to throw people off the scent.

As with Bodom, the main issue is the pretense at drama and conflict. There is so much fighting in Moth, so much. Admittedly, the found footage genre has a long history of its protagonists yelling at each other. It’s a cheap way of padding out your film and never having to show anything on screen. However, Moth takes it all to the next level. From the minute they get in a car together, Adam and Thora squabble about everything for the majority of the film. Even when they uncover clues that could lead them to the Mothman itself, they’re too busy taking chunks out of each other.

The only time they’re not fighting is when one of them is sleeping. Usually it’s Thora, leaving Adam to wander around hotels and fields in the dead of night with a night vision lens. With each night, Adam becomes more convinced that they being followed either by a homeless person, or even the Mothman itself. Not that we see anything to back up his claim. Again, like Bodom, we see nothing. Nothing to make the audience jump, nothing to raise their suspicions, nothing to raise the tiniest of hairs on the back of their collective necks. We guided to our ‘scares’ by Adam wobbling the camera and whispering ‘oh my god! What was that?’ It’s found footage making in its laziest form.

A final act revelation offers a new insight into everything we’ve been watching and my thoughts turned to The Last Broadcast from Stefan Avalos and Lance Weller; A comparison I made with Bodom. Sadly, Moth runs out of time before it can build upon this and we’re left with a mildly interesting ending to a deeply unsatisfying film. If you like your scares incredibly overt and punctuated by long scenes of people barking at each other, then Moth will tick all your boxes. However, seeing as Moth is Bodom remixed, I may as well finish off by quoting what I originally said about that: ‘By the time the credits roll, the sense of intrigue and apprehension is replaced with a massive shrug.’

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