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Bewildering Stories

Frank Darabont, dir. The Mist

film review by Lewayne L. White

The Mist
Frank Darabont
Thomas Jane,Marcia Gay Harden,
Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher,
Toby Jones
Length: 2:07
Rating: R
Date: Nov. 2007
“As a species we’re fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?” — Ollie Weeks, in The Mist

These three lines sum up the theme of Stephen King’s The Mist. The movie has gore and violence and great monster effects, but like a lot of King’s better work, it really comes down to an examination of how people respond to horrific situations.

The Mist has a simple set-up: after a massive storm, a mist rolls in from the mountain and surrounds a small New England town. In time, it becomes clear that something deadly is in the mist. Artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane), his son, Billy (Nathan Gamble), and much of the small town’s population hole up in the grocery store in an attempt to protect themselves.

What happens next is a struggle for survival against the creatures outside, and the growing madness inside, led by local religious zealot, Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden).

Much of the time we get only a suggestion of a creature, perhaps a few random tentacles, or a scream as someone disappears into the mist. So, when the creatures show up, particularly en masse, the audience is primed and ready. The monster effects are at times inconsistent, particularly with giant creatures, but when they work, they are as horrifying as anything I had imagined when I first read the novella twentyish years ago.

(Spiders... why’d there have to be spiders?)

The actors do a serviceable job, given that many of them have little to do but scream, break down, or gradually join the zealot faction within the store. Harden, in particular, as Mrs. Carmody is so over-the-top that it’s clear early on she could be as dangerous as the monsters outside.

For the most part you don’t get many surprises, but it’s still interesting to watch society, as the occupants of the grocery store dissolve into madness.

The Mist is one of perhaps a dozen of my favorite King stories, and I had both high hopes and low expectations for this film. Making the transition from print to screen has been a challenging and often unsatisfying experience when it comes to Stephen King’s work. Luckily, Frank Darabont not only manages successfully, but writes, if not a better ending, then at least a more definite one than King himself wrote.

King has often written about humanity on the brink of destruction, most notably with his massive epic, The Stand. But, he has almost always held out a small spark of hope, a belief than humanity is maybe a bit too tough to die. This time, for David Drayton and the occupants of the supermarket, that spark may wink out...

Copyright © 2008 by Lewayne L. White

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