The Mist
I’ve heard of a marine layer but this is ridiculous!

Theatrical Release Date: 11/21/2007
Director: Frank Darabont
Cast: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler

It’s back! Elizabeth Edgemont and Audrey Hess have returned with another hybrid review for your enjoyment. Apparently, Stephen King films just don’t come across the same to these two (see “1408” as another example).

It is 1:30 in the morning. We saw a late showing of “The Mist” this evening, and I went into it with zero expectations. I was hoping for a scary movie with more production put into the CGI monsters than the actual script, as is common with most thriller movies these days. Movies based on King books are hit or miss at best, and when they are based on short stories or novellas, good luck. And yet, it was good enough to keep me up to write a review, so here goes.

“The Mist”, in case you didn’t know, is about a small town overrun by strange creatures that come out of a dense mist that blankets everything after an electrical storm. A group of shoppers are trapped inside a grocery store, and soon realize the severity of the situation. As tensions rise and people start to die, the panic inside the store becomes as deadly as the creatures outside.

First of all, the cast is ridiculous. We recognized almost everyone in the film; I actually had to restrain myself from dropping more big names above. I don’t know why huge stars and acting veterans flock to King screenplays, especially since so few of them do it twice (and Thomas Jane should have known better after the bomb that was “Dreamcatcher”). But be it respect for a great storyteller or a hefty paycheck, they always come out in force. As a result the acting is largely top notch. As both good and bad groups quickly begin to emerge in the store, nearly all of the lead actors portray layered characters trying to process a terrifying situation, with varied levels of success. Actually there wasn’t a bad actor in the bunch, even down to the bit parts. I was more than impressed at the acting and writing.

The effects are actually pretty good. There was only one hokey CG moment, and the mist itself is a living, tangible presence in the film. Rather the mist is the atmosphere that the monsters live in. The monsters really were ok at best; those of you who work in the computer graphics industry will find this film wanting. The cinematography is great and the slightly grainy, unfinished quality of the film matches the mood and sense of isolation. The film relies far more on suspense and exposition than blood and gore, which in some ways makes it more credible. This is probably because the makeup artist in charge is no Stan Winston and they wanted to minimize their embarrassment.

Unlike the fair Lady of Botulinum Toxin and the other two friends that went to the film, I have read the story, along with almost everything King has written. It was hugely refreshing to see a film that follows so closely to his source material. With the exception of a controversially altered ending, all of the elements of the story were there.

Now for the problems, or one, to be specific. While exposition is necessary in this film, it went too far in one aspect. Not to give too much away, but Harden’s character is a fire and brimstone type that preaches throughout most of the film, with disastrous consequences. While a slow build-up is important to show the insidious nature of her at best misguided intent (and at worst deranged and vengeful motives), it results in quite a few scenes that lag a bit, and others that are a bit uncomfortable to watch. The level to which this act of the film managed to unnerve and bother me is a compliment to the writing and acting that she can rile up true intensity in the hearts of the audience, negative or positive.

The other potential issue for some would be the ending. While it is entirely different from the book, it is dark in its own way, and King himself supposedly said that, if he had thought of it, that was how he would have ended the story. So there ya go. The ending is much more appropriate than the book’s, sinking home the dark undertones of what it means to be human in a world that is becoming increasingly alien with no signs of respite.

So all in all, we decided to give “The Mist” a 3 out of 5. I personally love the vague Lovecraftian explanation for the events that have unfolded. Meanwhile, I find the exposition to be an unnecessary distraction. The old thriller movies were always scarier because you didn’t see the monster until the end and you rarely understood why he was after you. While not necessarily as tight as last year’s “1408” was, this film was a loyal tribute to a creepy little story.

Well played, Darabont. Well played.