Frank Darabont is a genius.
There, I said it. I feel better now. My feelings are out there, and won’t get in the way of the rest of the review.
The Mist is probably my favorite short story by Stephen King. Let me back track a little more, and tell you that I literally grow up on Stephen King. I’ve been reading books way beyond my reading level since I was about four. I picked up my first King book when I was six, and never looked back. In fact, I’m fairly certain that that book was Skeleton Crew, the book that contains The Mist.
King’s story is a carefully crafted piece of work. Darabont has a skill of taking the very best elements in King’s stories, and making them even better in the films. He has already demonstrated this in The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Darabont hasn’t just wonderfully adapted another King story…he has created one of the best monster movies ever made.
Like I said, I love the source material. Not only is it about the monsters that dwell inside the mist that takes up residence in the town, it’s also about the monsters inside all of us. This is most definitely the core of the story. The characters trapped inside the supermarket slowly turn against each other as time goes on. The film increases this tension tenfold. But let’s start from the beginning.
Thomas Jane is a perfect fit as David Drayton, a movie poster artist living in New England. As a side note, King fans will be sure to recognize the poster that Drayton is working on in the beginning of the film as Roland from The Dark Tower series. A terrible storm slowly comes in, and wrecks havoc on the Drayton family’s home. The next morning, after surveying the damage, David, his son, Billy, and his neighbor, Brent, make a trip into town to pick up supplies from the supermarket. It doesn’t take long for the mist to creep into town off the mountain and slowly cover everywhere the eye can see. Suddenly, things start appearing out of the mist. People begin to disappear. Tentacles eat men alive. And that’s not even the half of it.
Like I said before, the story is more about the people inside then the monsters out. The way the people in the supermarket ostracize Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) in the beginning of the film and then slowly turn into her followers is incredible. Gay Harden is incredible in the role. She really is a religious nut who believes what is happening is an apocalypse from God. The turning point, when Mrs. Carmody goes from ‘crazy woman’ to ‘religious zealot,’ is easy to see. She makes a transformation that is incredible to witness. The people who were once against her do her bidding without even a second thought. It’s a fantastic example of mob mentality, and is very, very scary. I dare say it’s even scarier than the creatures that are lurking outside.
Everyone in the cast is amazing. This is a large ensemble cast, and yet Darabont still finds a way for almost every person to become their own character. They aren’t just background figures. They are living, breathing humans that have their own identities, and are allowed to grow throughout the course of the film. A true standout is Ollie, a lowly supermarket worker who slowly comes into his own, and even turns into something of a hero. When I saw the film, the character got a cheering round of applause toward the end of the film when he does something that most of us have wanted since the beginning. I don’t want to spoil it, but you’ll know it when you see it.
The creature effects are very cool as well. Everything is pretty much a twisted version of some other creature on our world. There are only a few creatures that we see full on. The spiders (which are especially creepy), the locusts, and the dinosaur-like birds. Each is very nicely done, and looks pretty believable. The other creatures are mostly shrouded in the mist, though we do get a basic idea of what they look like. Even the creature that the tentacles belong too is never fully glimpsed, but we do see it (mostly) later on in the film.
Though the original story doesn’t say where the mist has come from (it mostly just alludes to the Arrowhead project), the film makes it very clear. Experiments at the military base close to town have accidentally opened a door way to another world, and the contents came spilling through. No, this isn’t really a spoiler. Don’t get mad. They mention it in the beginning of the film, and then go into more detail later on. This doorway to another world is a popular theme in King’s stories. In fact, he alludes to the fact that this world may be the dimension in which Lovecraft’s Elder Gods dwell. Even in the film, when the tentacled monster is glimpsed toward the end, one cannot help but think of Cthulu.
And then there is the ending. People are either going to hate it, or love. Me, I hated it when I saw it, and loved it the second I left the theatre. King’s story just sort of ends when the characters venture into the mist to try to survive. Darabont takes this a step further, and ends the film on one of the most wonderful down notes in the history of film.
I’m not going to babble on any more, because I feel that that is what I’ve been doing. But I do love this film. I love, love, love this movie. It’s fantastic. I want to see it again. I’m pissed it only came in #9 this weekend at the box office. It deserves so much more than that. If you want to see a great monster movie, go see this film. If you want to see a movie about the evil that lies inside every man, woman, and child, and how it can all go wrong, go see this film. If you just want to see a great movie, go see this film.
You will not be disappointed.
9 OUT OF 10