Tuesday, June 14, 2011

THE MIST


2007, Frank Darabont
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, William Sadler

I think we’re all a little skeptical when it comes to Stephen King adaptations. Sure, there are a smattering of decent films and Kubrick's The Shining is phenomenal, but most of them are relentlessly bad. Director Frank Darabont, though not very prolific, has created some of the best King adaptations. Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile garnered him Oscar nominations and he apparently has King’s blessing to adapt anything he wants. To be completely honest, I went into The Mist with a sneer on my face and disappointment in my heart. Not being a very big Stephen King fan, I didn’t know anything about the novella, which isn’t one of his better known works. I assumed the film was going to be a cheesy rip off of John Carpenter’s The Fog, which I absolutely love. I also feared The Mist was an attempt to cash in on lousy, CGI pseudo-Lovecraftian monsters. I will fully admit that I was wrong. This doesn’t happen very often, so take note.

The Mist tells the story of a small town in, you guessed it, New England, where some of the locals are forced to hole up in a grocery store due to the sudden, frightening presence of an extremely thick fog. No one is sure where it is from or why, but once you go into the mist you don’t come back out and eventually creatures make their way out of it and into the grocery store. The store is gradually set up into two factions: a larger group led by the bible-obsessed Mrs. Carmody and a smaller, renegade group of non-believers organized by horror movie artist David Drayton (Jane). This smaller group first makes a dash to the local pharmacy and they plan to escape with a few guns, a few bags of supplies, and Drayton’s truck. But can they get past both Mrs. Carmody’s gang and the monsters?

Ah, the pressure cooker. Always a good device for building drama, intensity, and for exploiting what people will do under duress. Stephen King uses them in almost every story and I have to say that it is one of my least favorite parts of The Mist. The most suspenseful things happen when they attempt to leave the store and all the waiting, arguing, and long blocks of dialogue -- particularly Mrs. Carmody’s -- that happen within the store feel mind-numbingly tedious. Clocking in at just over two hours, the film was almost too long to hold my attention. Luckily there was a lot of good cinematography, which made excellent use of the fog and the grocery store setting. The acting was more solid than I expected. Most of the actors are from genre films or television, but they all delivered tight performances, especially Thomas Jane. After The Punisher I was a little concerned.

If you haven’t seen it by now, The Mist is at least worth a rental. There is a lot of gore, some decent monsters -- particularly the tentacled creature in the beginning -- a bleak ending that somehow snuck in to a Hollywood film and a lot of old-school horror entertainment. It's not great, but it's entertaining. I have a lot of negative things to say about the ending, but I won't in order to avoid spoilers. Bleak. And a completely fucking ridiculous. Here's the two disc DVD.

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