2007, Frank Darabont
Frank Darabont’s third Stephen King adaptation (out of four films he has directed overall), The Mist immediately feels like it comes from the world of King. Set in Maine, the opening scenes are quaint and feel a little too staged, with dialogue that’s very on-the-nose and overly perfect. As it starts to settle into it’s plot though, concerning citizens of a small town who hole up in a supermarket while an ominous mist lurks outside, things start to flow a little more smoothly. Once the awkward introductions are taken care of, Darabont is able to guide the ensemble into the more thematic character dynamics that are introduced when the world goes to hell.
The members of the market split into two factions, the side led by Thomas Jane’s good-natured hero David Drayton and the side led by Marcia Gay Harden’s religious lunatic Mrs. Carmody. I felt like the portrayal of Carmody was too over-the-top, with no help from the always ten notches too high Harden, and it made things very black and white for the audience in that respect, but it’s in the more subtle character struggles between the characters on Drayton’s side that the story worked quite well. On his side there were characters portrayed by fine actors such as Laurie Holden, Toby Jones, Jeffrey DeMunn and Frances Sternhagen, and that’s where the film hits it’s stride.
Carmody quickly turns into this generic villain and while it was entertaining to watch at times, it was in the more human struggle of that small group that I found The Mist working at it’s best. Darabont, whose previous King adaptations were the more dramatic and much less genre-oriented Shawshank Redemption and Green Mile, has a surprisingly strong handle on the horror elements at play here. Working on a low budget and a quick schedule that he learned from his experience on The Shield (where he picked up the majority of his crew for this film), he employs a “less is more” strategy when it comes to the creatures lurking in the mist that makes this very effective.
Overall, the film is much more about the human drama that comes into play in a situation like this than it is about being a shocking monster movie, but when he wants to make you jump he is able to do that as well. The creature designs were frightening, although some of the CGI was a little weak, especially for 2007. There are lots of little things that I could nitpick about in regards to the film, but at the end of the day it’s an effective horror movie with some strong universal scenes.
That would be my review for the first 100 minutes of the film, up until the ending, which takes things to a whole new level. I won’t spoil it for those who, like I was, are fortunate enough to have gone this long without seeing the film and somehow not had it ruined for you, but this is one of those endings that resonates deep in you long after the movie is over. The kind of ending that almost makes you forget about everything else that came before it because it leaves such an impression. The Mist is a solid movie that ultimately builds to one of the most gutsiest, stunning endings I’ve ever seen in a film.
Film #156 of The 365 Film Challenge.