Back in the 1980’s and a Stephen King movie bought a great deal of excitement for me, but as the 80’s made way for the 90’s the quality of both King’s books and the movie adaptations hit rock bottom. Last year while others thought the movie 1408 was something special, I found it a boring, repetitive movie that had been done 100 times before and better. So as no doubt you could imagine my perception of the latest movie adaptation The Mist from a Stephen King novella failed to arouse my excitement. To add fuel to the fire the concept of the movie, about something in the mist sounded far too similar to a movie favourite of mine John Carpenters The Fog (not to be confused with the abysmally bad 2005 movie remake). I had written off The Mist, with little or no knowledge of it other than a trailer.
When I’m wrong I’ll admit it, and I have to say my viewing off The Mist left me with the best image about anything Stephen King related I have had for the best part of 15 years.
One night a storm rocks a small community, the following day the damage caused by the storm is devastating; through the storm however old feuds between warring neighbours are laid to rest, and friendships are formed. For David Drayton (Thomas Jane) its imperative that things return to normal as soon as possible and heads off into town with his son Billy and neighbour in tow. In town panic has ensued with people making bulk purchases in order to survive possible future storms. But through the panic all seems fairly good and upbeat as roughly 80 people shop in a busy supermarket. But their upbeat perspective is ruined by the arrival of Dan Miller (Jeffrey DeMunn) running through the parking lot screaming that something in the mist has taken out John Lee. Hot on Dan’s tail is the mist, rolling in unnaturally and in seconds completely surrounding the supermarket.
While initially sceptical of what the mist is, soon the occupants of the supermarket are given a bleak image as a tentacle enters the building and devours the bag boy Norm. With all manner of hell outside and with each attempted escape delivering a disturbing, death the question arises as to what is the more dangerous the enemy outside or the enemy within?
Director and adaptive screenwriter Frank Darabont successfully delivers his second (in my opinion) victory in a translation of a piece of Stephen King writing. He works carefully to introduce the characters and story gradually, allowing bonds with a large portion of the cast before the movie effectively begins. Thirteen minutes in and he attacks your senses with what I personally believe to be one of the most imposing uncomfortable sounds possible, an air raid siren. This sound literally moved me to the edge of my seat, next delivering a death and the vision of an uncompromising mist.
The Mist is like the returning of a tradition of horror, the sort of movie that might cause some to go running behind a sofa, or clutching for a cushion; each wave of terror pushing you further and further towards the front of your seat and closer to the floor. I won’t lie, the special effects in this movie are pretty awful, so clearly computer generated they have not even made the effort to cover things like shadowing, and interaction with other objects, they look really bad. But The Mist is not hindered by the lack of special or in this case not so special effects. When we look back at old movies often the effects are bad, but the atmosphere stays, this is something I think will serve The Mist well in years to come.
Rather like all tense situations the different people involved start to feud, and then you have the power struggle that begins as different factions form, and some look to make the situation about leadership. Into this arena steps Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) a religious zealot who believes that all occurring is due to the sins of all those in the supermarket, you will be judged she warns. Her preaching, combined with forgiveness for her exclusively with what lies in the mist elevates her to a higher plateau; effectively giving her a power base of followers. This is when the movie becomes really interesting, this is religion taken to the most dramatic extremes, as her flock grows they act and judge and jurors of those they believe have bought this unholy terror down on them. At this point my opinions of the movie really changed, I found myself angered at the weak minded nature of people, knowing that although this is just a movie I can’t help but understand that this is the sort of thing that would happen in reality. I literally found myself screaming at the screen, wishing that someone would take this woman out, in a final way of course.
With a running time of over two hours the movie could easily fall into areas where padding occurs, The Mist offers no padding, with aftershocks to each event. No isolated incident goes ignored, with each event positive or negative having a severely negative effect on the cast’s wellbeing. Movies seldom scare me, but I could imagine people being terrified out of their wits with this movie, the sensory attacks proving too much for some to take. This is echoed by the final haunting moments of the movie, your aware at this point that this is no Hollywood movie; there are no fake ineffective happily ever after style endings, I’d go as far as to say the movie delivers the most haunting and disturbing final moments seen onscreen for a long time. But this is not isolated to the movies end, all the way through people’s lives are decided on seemingly at the flip of a coin, nobody is safe strong contenders for joint leads with Thomas Jane are illuminated, and each one is met with great sadness, characters you grow to love are struck down in the most unpleasant of ways.
The cast is effective, a variety of familiar faces from across the decades, popular actresses of the moment Laurie Holden and Reunion star Alexa Davalos, are joined by established stars William Sadler and Francis Sternhagen. Although you might not like some of the characters in particular Harden’s you cannot deny that each and every one of the cast delivers a performance to the best of their potential. Thomas Jane an actor who normally I can take or leave heads up the cast admirably as an understated lead, while initially a leader his character son steps into the background as Harden’s army forms.
Mark Isham musical score is pretty much hidden for the movies duration, but as the movie nears its conclusion he offers a massive orchestral piece with a large choir; this sums up the feeling of lost hope, as people behin to realise that there may be no escape from the horror that waits outside.
Before I close this review, I’ll again highlight this movies ending; while I saw it coming but only because I watch too many films for my own good, most of them from less conventional movie studios. The ending of this movie is tragic, final, heartbreaking, and ultimately something that will outweigh all the other strengths this movie offers.