REVIEW: The Mist
Produced by: Frank Darabont, Martin Shafer, Liz Glotzer
Written by: Frank Darabont
Edited by: Hunter M. Via
Cinematography by: Rohn Schmidt
Music by: Mark Isham
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, Nathan Gamble, Jeffrey DeMunn, William Sadler, Frances Sternhagen, Samuel Witwer, Alexa Davalos
Based on the novella by Stephen King
Frank Darabont’s third adaptation of a Stephen King novel was, surprisingly, only the first horror film the director tackled from the famed author. Having apparently wanted to adapt the 1980 novella for quite some time, the director instead first tackled The Shawshank Redemption and then The Green Mile before finally getting a chance to direct the smalltown monster movie he had been dreaming of, making small adjustments to the story as he went along – most notably altering the original story’s ending to one that even Stephen King has acknowledged to be superior to the original work.
Set in the small town of Bridgton, Maine, the film follows David Drayton and his son Billy as their town gets caught up in a mysterious mist that emerges from the mountains after a fierce thunderstorm. Heading into town to obtain supplies, the father and son find themselves trapped in the grocery store with a store full of locals and vacationing outsiders when the dense mist rolls in, bringing with it terrible, unseen creatures that attack anyone who dares venture outside. In true horror fashion, however, the true threat may very well lie within the grocery store, as divisions begin to form between the survivors. Some opt for disbelief or skepticism. Others would rather take a wait and see approach. Still others see this as God reigning down His wrath in the end times.
While the film certainly pales in comparison to Darabont’s previous adaptations of King’s work and even represents a sharp decline from even The Green Mile, itself a lesser film to the universally adored Shawshank, The Mist is still a generally well made movie and wouldn’t have been out of place as an extended episode of The Twilight Zone – the good, classic episodes, that is. A lot of the acting and characterizations are intentionally just this side of caricatured, with the extremely religious Mrs. Carmody being the extreme exception, which makes the movie feel a lot more like a classic monster B-movie. It’s all very theatrical, and, I admit, the first time I saw it, I didn’t fully accept it. This was my second viewing, however, and I gotta admit, the second time around goes down much smoother. Perhaps setting your expectations correctly prior to watching the film is the key to initial success?
As far as horror films go, there are a considerable amount of jump scares, and, yes, there is gore, and there are creepy creature attacks, but if you’re looking for an intense, terrifying experience with copious amounts of entrails, you’re not going to find it here. Much of the horror in The Mist is derived from slow buildups and depictions of people devolving out of desperation and resorting to the extremes of the belief systems they came into the situation with. You suddenly start to understand why people resorted to witch burning back in the day. The film basically makes you wonder how you would react in such an extreme situation. Would you hold fast to your beliefs, or would you find a new perspective? And how far would you go to simply stay alive in what seems to be a world filled with so much darkness?
The film isn’t perfect, of course – the caricatured acting can sometimes grate on one’s nerves, particularly Marcia Gay Harden’s performance as Mrs. Carmody. There are times when I loved how much she reveled in the character’s extreme convictions, and there were other times when it really felt like it was bringing the film down. She commits to it, though, as do the rest of the cast (which includes future Walking Dead stars Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, and, in a small role, Melissa McBride – all of them, amusingly enough, practically playing versions of their characters from the later Darabont-developed show). As far as the creatures go, they’re fantastically designed and have some great, natural animation, yet the realism of the CGI effects has already aged horribly and they stand out from the murky scenery with a sometimes glossy look. Like with the acting, you might have to adjust your expectations and perhaps see this as more of the intended B-movie feel, even if that probably isn’t necessarily true. There is a black and white version of the film available, as well (which I have not seen), but there are some who swear by it, and it’s very possible that this may help with the aging effects.
Overall, though, it’s another admirable Frank Darabont/Stephen King adaptation, and you could find much worse films to watch when you’re in the mood for both a scary monster movie and a thought-provoking film all at once. Even if you’ve read the novella (which I have admittedly not) and think that a film adaptation must be inferior, you may want to give it a go, anyway, if only to see Darabont’s rewritten, King-approved ending, which many feel sets this film well above the average mark, including myself.
The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 3.5 / 5