Humans are fascinated with the strange and unusual. Bigfoot, UFOs, mermaids…you name it… someone has claimed to see one. But all these creatures didn’t just appear out of thin air. Many are rooted in cultural stories and are used to explain the unknown. That’s where The Mothman Legacy comes in. The Mothman Legacy sets out to explain not only the Mothman, but the Mothman’s origins and impact on folklore and does so beautifully.
The Mothman Legacy began with a year of strange sightings of a red-eyed winged creature in Point Pleasant, West Virginia from 1966-1967. This year of supernatural sightings culminated with the collapse of the Silver Bridge, putting this tiny Appalachian town on the map and launched it to folklore fame.
What makes The Mothman Legacy different is its all-encompassing approach to the legend of Mothman. The documentary contains eye witness accounts, commentary from researchers, experts, and filmmakers. But rather than just discussing Mothman, The Mothman Legacy discusses the cultural links, and what Mothman means for the community of Point Pleasant.
The film is broken up into decades and trends, sightings, and stories are told from those specific years. Choosing to present the story of Mothman in this way allows audiences to really experience how this legend has evolved over time and how (in many ways) it has remained the same.
The Mothman Legacy acts as a sort of mini-history lesson in addition to a cryptozoology special. Audiences are given a brief history of settlement in West Virginia and how “Appalachian culture” came to be. This exploration of culture and past helps to understand Mothman in the present. Mothman’s description can be linked to descriptions of the Garuda in Hinduism, the Native American Thunderbird, and the Celtic Banshee. These vastly different cultures all have creatures with similar traits and behaviors of the Mothman, suggesting that this mysterious being has been around long before its appearance in 1966.
The Mothman Legacy touches on different theories on Mothman’s purpose. Some think he is a Harbinger, while others think he is a “Super Terrestrial” that exists on another plane. Some imagine him to be an other-worldly being, and others imagine he is the result of the human mind simply trying to “unscramble the message” when receiving a large sum of energy.
The most important thing The Mothman Legacy does is discuss how this strange humanoid has affected the people of Point Pleasant and the people who have dedicated their lives to it. The eye-witness accounts are all different in the sense that everyone appears to have been impacted differently by their interactions with the Mothman. Some appear to recall sadness, others fear, and some appear to have developed an air of indifference when remembering the encounter. The documentary spends a fair amount of time discussing the legend with Mothman museum owner Jeff Wamsley and screenwriter of the film The Mothman Prophecies, Richard Hatem. Both Wamsley and Hatem discuss what Mothman means to them and what John Keel’s book The Mothman Prophecies did for the legend and subsequently the town of Point Pleasant.
Throughout the entire film, every interview, story, and comment continue to reinforce the same theme, that the legend of Mothman (at its core) is an example of the human condition and the need to tell stories. This idea is suggested throughout the film and one line in particular stuck with me and really drove the concept home, “The folktales tell us who we are. They help us remember who we are”. That statement alone changes Mothman from an inexplicable phenomenon to an important cultural story.
Any fan of cryptozoology, myths, legends, folklore, and anthropology will find The Mothman Legacy fascinating. Its multi-faceted approach to telling the Mothman’s story will make any skeptic a believer. If not in Mothman, then in the power of a story and its ability to change lives forever.
The Mothman Legacy is coming to iTunes, Google Play, Fandango, and Amazon on October 20.
Movie Rating: 9 out of 10