Bottom Line: Enjoyable for those who watch horror movies solely for blood and gore.
Directed by: Frank Darabont
Starring: Alexa Davalos, Andre Braugher, Frances Sternhagen, Jeffrey DeMunn, Laurie Holden, Marcia Gay Harden, Nathan Gamble, Toby Jones, Thomas Jane, William Sadler
When we look at some of the most prominent figures surrounding the horror genre, it seems film and television have countless possiblilities. To name just a few, Bela Lugosi, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, and–much more recently–Oren Peli. In written fiction, there aren’t very many notable personalities. It’s limited to Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Ann Rice, and Stephen King. Of those four, King stands out as my favorite. He is–or, rather, was–a prolific author you could count on for a great book that most of the time turns into a just as spectacular film. Brian de Palma’s CARRIE and Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING are as equally important to the horror genre as their source novels, for example. Writer-director Frank Darabont has proved himself a fan of King’s work. He’s the filmmaker responsible for THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THE GREEN MILE. Each of those was an adaptation of King’s non-horror work, a rarity, but they nevertheless turned out spectacularly. They’re the kind of films that we remember much more than their source material. With those credits and exuberant knowledge of how to successfully adapt and even improve on the author’s work, one would think THE MIST would be somewhat decent. The Mist was a mediocre novella to begin with, with an engaging premise marred by poor writing. To adapt it was a tedious idea, but appallingly, the film works out as little more than derivative B-horror.
Though the premise isn’t anything new, it’s pretty fun. A disastrous storm strikes a town and leaves a mist over the lake. We learn from a married couple the film opens up with that it’s typical for mist to serve as an aftermath for storms. But this mist is somewhat different. When townspeople begin gathering food and supplies in preparation for another storm, the mist begins to surround the grocery store. It is nearly impossible to enter, because anyone who does so is shown to be bloodied and then eaten alive by a giant squid-like creature. Again, it’s a thrilling premise, despite being downright trivial. Once evolved into a complete plot, however, the story begins to fray rather quickly. It seems to not know where to go during its latter half, leading up to one of the dumbest twist endings I’ve ever seen. There were about three of them, actually, and really, Darabont should have stopped after the first. That possible conclusion was appalling, to say the most without churning out any spoilers.
Rather than keeping the reasonable, agreeable characters from King’s source, Darabont makes nearly every person involved in the plot absolutely obnoxious. We root for them and hope they win out in the end…until they speak and act. Such idiocy makes us actually want them to get killed by the “tentacle creature”. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a town having only one sane character. Ironically, they make fun of him here and there for his career, something as tame as designing the art for movie posters***. It’s disappointing that by the final scene, once he has proved himself stupider than all the rest of them, we wish for that character to die as well.
THE MIST suffers from a distinct horror archetype created by many non-horror fans. It’s twig-skinny in plot and flowing with blood and gore, most of which apears extremely fake. I must make a special note that it isn’t terribly frightening either. It’s much more gross than disturbing or terrifying. If you’re someone who enjoys ALIEN and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS for the sake of watching bodily mutilation and reptile-like creatures, give this a watch. You’ll surely be entertained, as THE MIST expresses no hesitation for similar attacks and feasts on mortal flesh (I try to make that sound more horrific than the film itself, even with such trashy words), though perhaps they are presented here in a bit more of excessive, gratuitous, and disgusting ways. If you watch such films for an engaging plot, I’d recommend ignoring the film.
***Just for any other cinephiles reading this review, and I’m pretty sure that’d be the majority of you, I caught a glimpse of the famous poster for John Carpenter’s The Thing in his room, and it appeared as if he was drawing a poster for a possible adaptation of Stephen King’s own “Dark Tower” saga when the storm hit.