Most of Moth is “found footage,” only really not because it’s multi-camera found footage and at some point, directors Elekes and Gallai push too hard on the concept and break it. The film tracks the progress of university lecturer Lídia Szabó as she investigates Mothman sightings in Hungary. One of her students, played by director Gallai, tags along. They trade the camera back and forth, though there’s a lot of them talking in two shots in the car. The car has a mounted camera, which eventually helps break the gimmick.
Though, the gimmick is never as impressive as how Elekes and Gallai exploit it and how Elekes edits it (along with Sándor Gál). Gallai’s screenplay is well-plotted. Moth has some rather nicely done sequences–both “first person” camcorder footage and third person dramatic–but between them, only Gallai’s pace and then the editing make the film move well enough. Eventually, the screenplay falls apart and Gallai just becomes a jerk. He and Szabó don’t have any chemistry. The film’s in English, though the stars are Hungarian–and there are way too many American pop culture references to give it a broader appeal. Is it a good commercial decision? I don’t know. I’m not exactly the target audience for found footage horror movies, but the movie certainly would’ve been better if Gallai and Szabó didn’t worry so much about being as Western-friendly as possible.
I mean, that concept–two people from different countries only able to communicate in non-native English while hunting a mothman creature in Hungary–it’s a better story. Because Gallai struggles to give his characters back story, he struggles to give them content. And then he can’t even muster enthusiasm when he’s trying to get through the expository dialogue. It kills run time between thrills, yes, but it doesn’t build anything.
Moth’s real independent and Gallai and Elekes show a lot of creativity with their limitations. The found footage approach does help them get away with some things, but not enough. It’s not the defining thing about Moth, even though it’s technically well-executed.
With better performances, same exact story, same exact filmmaking, Moth would be a lot better. The acting is just too lean, too perfunctory. Both Gallai and Szabó (who has the ludicrous subplot of wanting to be an actress instead of a university lecturer) just seem like they want to get through their lines so they can be off screen again.
Nice photography from Elekes, though not as impressive as he and Gál’s editing.
Produced and directed by Gergö Elekes and József Gallai; written by Gallai; photography and music by Elekes; edited by Elekes and Sándor Gal; production designer, Zoltán Jakab.
Starring Lídia Szabó (Thora) and József Gallai (Adam).