The Mist (2007)

10 Apr

the-mist

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“SOMETHING IN THE MIST!!!”

In a horror film like “The Mist,” this is the line that is a staple for the start of something interesting. Here it is—a thick, eerie mist that spreads across a small town. And an old man runs into a crowded supermarket, saying that “SOMETHING IN THE MIST” took somebody away. The mist blows in, enveloping everything in sight. With half the population of the town inside the supermarket, they all begin to get a glimpse of that certain “SOMETHING IN THE MIST!!!” No one is going anywhere until the mist clears…if it clears.

That’s the premise for “The Mist,” a tense, well-done horror film based on a novella by Stephen King. It was directed by Frank Darabont, making this his third Stephen King film adaptation, following “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile.” You could tell by the setup for “The Mist” that this is as far from those other movies as you could get. But “The Mist” is about more than cheap scares and monsters (though there are some). When you get down to it, it’s ultimately about the paranoia that develops when people race to survive together in a terrifying situation and how hopeless it can all seem/be.

It all begins somewhat normally as artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane), his son Billy (Nathan Gamble), and his neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) drive into town to the supermarket—and this is after a violent storm trashes their neighborhood. But it’s then that the mist turns in and the panicked old man (who, did I mention, has blood on his face) runs in, screaming to shut the doors because the mist is coming and, did I mention—“SOMETHING IN THE MIST!!!”

People step outside and disappear, but it seems clear that they didn’t leave the parking lot. And it’s David and a few others who get an encounter with something with a large tentacle and learn that there really is “SOMETHING IN THE MIST!!!”

David tries to lay it down as he possibly could with the other people in the market that there’s something really dangerous outside. But meanwhile, religious fanatic Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), the town loony, believes this is the sign of the Apocalypse and that God has chosen her to show everyone the way to salvation. She rants and scolds those who try to ignore her…and even brings up the idea of human sacrifice!

Sorry lady, but I don’t think it said in the book of Revelation that God would send giant bugs to kill the unfaithful. I think George A. Romero was closer with his zombie stories.

OK, I did mention “giant bugs,” and sometimes they do look silly. Other times, however, they’re pretty frightening, particularly when you catch glimpses of them (like the giant tentacle I mentioned earlier). They’re also quite unnerving (probably the most unnerving, really) when you see them through the gloom of the mist. But sometimes they do look silly and the CGI is too noticeable, when seen up close.

Mainly though, it’s a story of survival, fear, paranoia, and mistrust. As everyone holes up inside the supermarket and things get worse and worse, the people are divided into two groups. One group is with David’s clear-mindedness, and the other is with Mrs. Carmody’s…delusion. (There’s another group following Brent Norton’s skepticism, but that doesn’t last long, of course.) It’s a matter of time before they turn on each other, and the tension is always there amongst the characters. It asks the question of who are more the monster—the people or the actual monsters. Meanwhile, though, a lot of them turn into unlikely heroes. David turns from a professional painter to the person many people turn to in a crisis—he’s sensible, clear-minded, and quick on his wits. Then there’s the meek, nerdy Ollie (Toby Jones), schoolteacher Amanda Dumfries (Laurie Holden), and elderly Irene (Frances Sternhagen) who turn in some big blows when it comes to fighting the monsters.

What I didn’t need in “The Mist” was the obligatory scene that tries to explain exactly what this mist is and why there are these supernatural beings attacking us. Why not let our imaginations run wild and come up with our own explanations?

But mainly, “The Mist” is a nicely-done, truly scary horror film that us real tension amongst characters who seem realized, monsters that are actually frightening (for the most part), and an ending that is…well, let’s just say this movie ends on a deadly-ironic note and leave it at that.

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