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Movie Review: The Mist

The Mist (MGM/Dimension, 2007)
Written and directed by Frank Darabont from the short story by Stephen King

Stephen King once said in an interview around the time that The Green Mile was being filmed that director, Frank Darabont, has decided to devote his career to only adapting Stephen King books set in prisons. Before Mile, Darabont had directed the Oscar nominated, and much loved Shawshank Redemption. Since he’s out of King stories set in prisons, Darabont decided to tackle yet another King story, The Mist, a novella included in his eighties short story collection, Skeleton Crew. Although depending on your definition of being caught in a prison, this story could actually suffice in that department.

The Mist is about a small town in Maine (King’s favorite stomping grounds), that after a big storm, gets engulfed in a strange mist that brings with it Lovecraftian creatures that trap a group of the residents in the local grocery store. The creatures include large bugs, skeletal vultures, giant spiders, and a large creature with a lot of tentacles to spare.

The Mist has always been one of my favorite Stephen King stories so I came to this film with a lot of anticipation. I actually saw it last weekend when it opened, and decided to go see it again before I wrote the review. I’ve written ad nauseum on how bad I think horror films have been this year, so the second viewing was more to reassure myself that I wasn’t just so excited to see a good horror film that I was going to over praise it. The Doc only wants to bring you the truth.

Well, I loved it the first time I watched it, and I loved it just as much if not more on the second viewing. So, this is definitely a winner in 2007 as far as I’m concerned. Darabont has crafted a wonderfully claustrophobic nightmare and has done a great job at capturing all of the terror that Stephen King brought us twenty years ago with the original story.

Darabont makes a wise decision in implanting a lot of wonderful character actors in the grocery store, so even the least used individuals give a little more than the role calls for. People like Toby Jones (Infamous), William Sadler (Die Hard 2, Shawshank), and Andre Braugher (Poseidon) are all in on the fun.

Our protagonist, David Drayton is well played by Thomas Jane, a guy I still think should be a star, if he would just quit doing movies like The Punisher and more like this he should be all right. Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock) is also cast well as the religious zealot, Mrs. Carmody, who kind of resorts to being the human villain of the piece. She becomes a huge motivation in Drayton and his friends’ desire to get the hell out of the store because her “Jim Jones” type tactics become scarier than any of the creatures that might tear them limb from limb if they go outside. As Drayton says at one point, “I want to get out of here before anyone starts drinking the Kool-Aid.”

As in any adaptation there are some additions and subtractions from the original work. All of these end up being for the better, which is rare. For instance, a ridiculous sex scene from the story is left on the cutting room floor thankfully.

The few sequences that are added are also welcome. The pharmacy sequence in the original story is only about half a page since once Drayton sees the spider webs they all get the hell out of there. However, in the movie we actually get to see a spider attack and it ends up being one of the more exciting sequences in the film. Darabont also decides to give a more definitive reason for why the “Mist” and the creatures are there; this is only hinted at in the story.

The most controversial addition to the film, however, is the ending. In King’s version, the end is pretty much an ambiguous one. It’s left open-ended for us to decide the fate of our few survivors. Darabont decides to give the film a resolution. And while I can’t speak for Mr. King, I have a feeling when he saw this he was wishing he had written this ending himself. It might very well be the best final moment I’ve seen in a film this year.

Now, this is a bit of a side note, if you will, but it has to be said. I am really tired of hearing all the gripes from genre fans about the state of the horror film. I hear left and right how all the studios are doing is remakes and sequels. So, then why is it when something like The Mist comes out, none of these fools will go see it? They’re going to see the sequels and remakes or they wouldn’t keep making them. But truly unique visions like The Mist, Behind the Mask, or Hatchet emerge, and pretty much bomb at the box office. Some of this has to do with marketing, but I know that genre fans can be some pretty resourceful people, so the fact that The Mist has been out for two weeks and has made no money is inexcusable if you’re going to make that argument.

I haven’t said anything remotely bad about this film because in the end after two viewings, I couldn’t really find anything wrong with it that is worth mentioning. They could have probably trimmed ten minutes and it would have been a little tighter, but I’m not really sure which parts you would take out. If you’re looking for a good scare and a fun time, then get out of your seat and go see The Mist. The Doc wouldn’t steer you wrong.


Sam Loomis

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