The Mist is a run-of-the-mill entry into the thriller genre; good in spurts but ultimately succumbs to too many cliches and the presence of one of the most annoying characters in motion picture history. The film is based on the novel by the master of horror Stephen King and directed by Frank Darabont, who made two of the best films of the 1990’s with The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, which were also adapted from King novels. It is surprising then that he fumbles this project. Despite the fact that Darabont has made two films based on King novels, The Mist seems like a very unusual choice for him and is certainly far different from anything else he’s ever done.
The film opens with a shot of our hero, David Drayton (Thomas Jane, The Punisher), who is an artists that designs movie posters. This shot is somewhat of a gimmick. Those who know the works of Stephen King will realize the poster David is designing is based on his Dark Tower series. Perhaps that is a subliminal advertisement for an upcoming film project. Anyways, there is a nasty storm brewing and David and his family wake up the next morning to find that a tree has crashed into their house. David takes his son, Billy (Nathan Gamble), and his neighbor Brent (Andre Braugher, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer), who’s car was damaged during the storm, into town to a market square to pick up some food and supplies. While at the grocery store, terror suddenly sweeps across the town in the form of an engulfing mist. Inside the mist are deadly creatures that leave everyone inside the grocery store fighting for their lives.
Darabont seems to be more focused on thrills and blood than anything else. He maybe a veteran director when it comes to Stephen King but he hasn’t actually made a horror suspense film before. The movie leaves the viewer unsatiated in terms of origin details. Where did this mist and these creatures come from? All signs point to a military incident, but no cut and dry explanation is given. Darabont should have inserted a scene at the beginning at this military base that supposedly created the problem to give us some sort of setup and idea of what to expect. I was surprised that Darabont elected to show these insect like creatures, which are missing the detail of good CGI work and range in size from small to gigantic. I would have preferred it if were just one giant monster lurking in the mist and no clear shot of it was given to keep us wondering until the end what’s really out there.
What is most surprising is how cliched the movie feels. At times it resembles your average cheap horror flick. Characters that we haven’t gotten to know very well put balls over brains and lead themselves into a gruesome death. Then there’s the mist itself. It’s an obvious tool to produce thrills with. With the exception of one scene, Darabont telegraphs the viewer that something is going to pop-up from the mist on to the window. I will give credit to Darabont for what he did with the ending. His film, unlike so many others, does not fall to a predictable conclusion and the final scene is utterly shocking and heartbreaking. The ending is so good you wish you had a better beginning and middle to go along with it.
The cast includes Jane, Marica Gay Harden, Toby Jones and William Sadler. Jane is very agreeable as David, who is easily the most normal of all the people trapped in the store. I didn’t think I’d ever say this about Marcia Gay Harden, who plays Mrs. Carmody: she is without a doubt the biggest Achilles heel of this film. She is a preachy, Old Testament believing nutcase who thinks that modern Christianity is heresy and is convinced that the events taking place in the film are signs of the apocalypse. She does not shut up throughout almost the entire film because after everything that happens, there is no evidence to prover her wrong. Darabont is valiantly trying to explore how people deal with each other in a crisis, but in this case annoyance becomes a major problem. On the plus side though, Toby Jones as a cashier named Ollie has become my new personal hero.
Compared to this year’s earlier Stephen King inspired thriller 1408, The Mist is a letdown, especially in the hands of such a gifted director. 1408 was all-together suspenseful, character driven, and got into your head as much as John Cusack’s. While it has its moments, The Mist is just a missed opportunity due to poor execution. It is strange when you think about it though. With it’s perfect conclusion to the 120 frustrating minutes before it, the movie is disappointing and yet also unforgettable.
||Release Date: November 21, 2007
Rated: R for violence, terror and gore, and language.
Running Time: 127 min.
Cast: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden
Director: Frank Darabont
Screenplay: Frank Darabont, Stephen King (novella)
Studio: Dimension Films
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