Eyes of the Mothman is a documentary from director Matthew Pellowski and Red Line Studios/Virgil Films. The film opens with a serene landscape and the narrator describes the small, rural, river town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The introduction is then followed by a montage of voices and images which barrage the senses accompanied by a soundtrack that’s a bit unnerving. I was instantly intrigued.
This documentary isn’t just about the enigmatic Mothman but about the various stories, encounters, and events surrounding the monster. More importantly, the documentary is about Point Pleasant and the people who live there. It’s not about proving if the beastie is real or not. That’s what makes this documentary work so well. The eerie happenings are told from the perspectives of the small-town West Virginians who experienced them. A small town with a population of 5,000 people – the kind of place where everyone knows everyone.
Pellowski deftly weaves a story full of myth, legends, history, and culture in this film. And it starts in 1774 with the Battle of Point Pleasant and the betrayal and slaying of a great Shawnee warrior, Chief Cornstalk. A betrayal which led to an inevitable curse.
Whether Cornstalk’s final words were really a vengeful promise of doom is widely debated. Regardless, the Curse of Chief Cornstalk is an important part of Point Pleasant and its history. Not only do many locals believe in the curse but a variety of unusual disasters and misfortunes have been attributed to it.
Then the film delves into the history of a wildlife preserve that experienced its own trials and tribulations just five miles away from Point Pleasant. McClintic Wildlife Preserve aka the “TNT Area.” The 3655 acres of land was used during WWII as an underground industrial facility where chemicals, TNT, and other explosives were created and stored in “igloos” around the property. You know, all that good nature-friendly stuff – weapons, live ammunition, other war-time supplies – sealed away in air tight domes.
It wasn’t until a couple decades after the plant closed down – and after the Mothman events – that people began to notice the effects of the plant’s by-products. Chemical leaks and many contaminates from the old weapons facility saturated the land. Even to this day some of the “igloos” remain untouched and their contents a mystery. For some reason, watching this part of the documentary really sent chills up my spine.
Enter the Mothman. That man-bird-like creature with penetrating red eyes. I was hooked throughout this entire section. Between witnesses like Merle Partridge and Faye Leport, I really felt for these people and whole-heartedly believed in the encounters they shared. They were terrorized by something and were terrified. But it didn’t stop with just one or two sightings. Encounters with the red-eyed fiend became frequent and the town was all a buzz. Was the Mothman an angel? A demon? Some mutated critter? An “extinct” pterosaur? The mythical thunderbird? An extraterrestrial? The Curse of Chief Cornstalk? Some ill omen like a banshee? Perhaps it was a spiritual encounter and not actually a physical creature?
But what most outsiders were saying is that it’s all a hoax. The cynics believed that these people were trying to garner the attention of the national press and create a stir in their town. Still, others believed that the people of Point Pleasant were just confused and mistook the winged beast for a large sandhill crane. Sure – it’s possible. But then you have to consider that people in the sticks of West Virginia hunt and are familiar with a variety of animal species. And these are the points that Pellowski emphasizes – consider the credibility of the Point Pleasant citizens. Consider the possibilities of what COULD exist even though we don’t see it.
Pellowski also points out that there have been a variety of sightings of a similar winged-red-eyed-beastie which pre-date the events in Point Pleasant… and also some after!
About halfway through the documentary, it transitions from Mothman stories to UFO sightings… and other freaky-deaky occurrences. Hell, the documentary even brings to light the possibility of THE MEN IN BLACK! Strange men would visit people who encountered the Mothman or saw UFOs. In a small town, news travels fast when mysterious men are in town; apparently going around from door to door and telling people to keep quiet about strange happenings isn’t as inconspicuous as one may think. And that’s when the Mothman theories became even wilder – when reports of UFOs, Men In Black, and the enigmatic Indrid Cold were thrown into the mix, it was suggested that the creature could be an extraterrestrial or being from another dimension. And then it all culminated with the devastating bridge collapse which killed 46 people.
The only gripe I had with the film were the awkward eye close-ups which made an abrupt cut to the standard frame of the waist up for an interview. It bothered me for most of the film. Then I realized it was not an amateur’s editing mistake but a technique that Pellowski clearly intended for viewers to notice. It’s all about the eyes.
Never in my life have I wanted to visit West Virginia so badly – not until I watched this documentary. While the documentary leaves many questions unanswered and raises even more, it definitely advocates the credibility of the witnesses and personalizes the experiences of the Point Pleasant citizens. It doesn’t intend to provide any scientific argument against the existence of the Mothman but rather explores the historical, social, and cultural significance of the unexplained mysteries that impacted Point Pleasant for an entire year. Check out Eyes of the Mothman!