A Spectacular Scarefest8/10
While the cast and crew of "The Mist" will herald the Weinstein Brothers at press junkets and the like, the producing duo has made 2007's most refreshingly original horror films ("Grindhouse," "Halloween") sacrificial lambs to fright-unfriendly weekends (there's a good article on this at Dread Central.com). And while "The Mist" certainly commands a 30-foot screen, maybe its best possible fate lies on DVD, where viewers with surround sound and a widescreen TV can live the horrific, harrowing experience without the distraction of an audience too dumb to decipher their ticket stubs.
"What's wrong with Stephen King?!" one member asked at the climax of "The Mist," certain he had made an alternately incisive and hilarious comment. To which I thought, "Had you actually read the novella, clod, you'd know that King ended on an (almost) upbeat note." With home entertainment fast becoming the industry standard, I guess the expectation of a tactful audience is beyond reason anymore.
Despite the running commentary, I was able to see the treasure most of the room missed out on. As a novella, "The Mist" islike most of King's workpulpy, scary, and compelling. The film, written and directed by Frank Darabont, is a stunning adaptation that manages to capture the slow burn of dread and desperation that permeates the novella. And while there is an uncanny titular similarity to John Carpenter's "The Fog," this is an altogether different beast.
The setup is simple: after a brutal storm whips through a small Maine community, movie poster artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane"Dreamcatcher") and his son, Bill (Nathan Gamble) head into town for supplies, accompanied by Norton (Andre Braugher), their next-door neighbor. Once they arrive at a small shopping plaza, a shear mist encroaches upon them, trapping a large number of people inside a grocery store. The utter randomness of this scenario is enough to make one's skin crawl, but it turns out there are prehistoric-looking monsters waiting in the mist. And the inhabitants of the store become increasingly desperate for survival.
(At this juncture, I will apologize in advance for the upcoming comparisons to "Night of the Living Dead," due to the sheer quantity of mentions.)
What follows has a lot of thematic parallels to George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead," a B movie whose guerrilla fearlessness and intelligence pushed it into legitimacy and legend. "The Mist" is as much about things-that-go-bump-against-the-plate-glass as the way in which trapped humans respond to such a fantastic situation. Like "Night," the breakdown of social order and martial law is addressed; the role of the military comes into play; religious fundamentalism is personified by Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), a fire-and-brimstone type who becomes a macabre, sacrifice-minded beacon to the store's desperate. In an era where most of today's horror crowd expects "Saw XIV" every time they walk into a theater, Darabont's script is built on a foundation of logic and authentic human action (even when characters do things we know are unwise, their rationale is convincingly fleshed-out) as opposed to manipulative twists and anticlimaxes. The ending is at once ballsy, depressing, and right. Like "Night," "The Mist" is less about otherworldly monsters than mankind's uncanny ability to BE the monster.
That being said, "The Mist" works as well as a traditional horror film, with several genuinely scary sequences involving mutant hybrids of pterodactyls, houseflies, and spiders, with several Cthulhu-esquire unmentionables to complement their Lovecraftian backstory. The CG is well-utilized and the sharp editing keeps it from being overdone. Darabont transforms the creatureswhich are essentially '50s B-movie fodderinto absolutely convincing visions of hell. This film bucks current horror trends by actually scaring the audience instead of just repulsing them.
"The Mist" is one of the year's best.