The Mist (2007)
By: Mr Intolerance on June 24, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Roadshow (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. English (FHI) subtitles. 121 minutes
The Movie
Director: Frank Darabont
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher
Screenplay: Frank Darabont
Country: USA
External Links
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Based on Stephen King's 1980 novella of the same name (serialised that year in Dark Forces before being anthologised in 1985's Skeleton Crew), The Mist is that rarest of beasts, a good, not to mention faithful, adaptation of a King story. You could argue The Mist is part paean to the golden age of the creature feature, part slick Hollywood CG splatter flick, part Friday night popcorn-muncher – but really, while it holds true to all of those types of films, it's a hell of a lot more than the sum of these sometimes rather unimpressive and inconsequential parts.

David Drayton (Thomas Jane) is an artist, a designer of movie posters (including one that looks suspiciously like that for John Carpenter's The Thing, and another looking equally suspiciously as though it might be for King's The Dark Tower series – the Gunslinger, anybody?) living with his wife and his young son Billy in the tiny upstate Maine community of Castle Rock – a name I'm sure is familiar to all King fans out there. A violent storm hits the town one night totally out of the blue, devastating Castle Rock, knocking out the electricity, and otherwise being a hindrance to a comfortable small town existence.

And this leads itself to one of King's strengths as a writer – he tells credible tales of small town America. People waffle on about writers like Steinbeck and so forth doing this better, but to me, King does this kind of thing brilliantly – the gossip, the pettiness, the inward-looking nature of the whole enchilada – Harper Lee might be more highly regarded, but King is sooooo much more visceral and real. So the property dispute David has had with his neighbour Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) ends up seeming like more than just clever window-dressing, it becomes an intrinsically important part of the plot, and ultimately quite a tragic one.

It's probably worth mentioning the dialogue at this point. Darabont has noticed, as have few other adaptors of King, that Stephen King writes good dialogue, and he's kept most of that dialogue from the novella as part of the film. It is extremely close to the taut, almost Hemingway-like no-wasted-words terse dialogue and sparse diction of the source material. Considering how many bad King adaptations there are out there, this is an admirable talent. With Darabont (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption), this is up there with Rob Reiner's take on Stand By Me, or de Palma's Carrie, let alone Singer's Apt Pupil in terms of transmitting King's original vibe. Kubrick and Garris, eat your nobs off!

Anyhoo, David and Norton head off with young Billy down the road to buy supplies at the local supermarket just as a great big fuck off mist comes rolling in off the lake. Things are looking grim… Cue siege scenario – the mist engulfs the supermarket, and a whole mess of locals become trapped, terrified by what might lurk in the mist itself – cue the CG creepy-crawlies!

I'm going to draw a veil over much of the following proceedings, basically because I have no desire to spoil the film for you – but let me tell you the following. Creatures from the outside are nowhere near as nasty as what the human race can create for itself, The film, even nearly 30 years since the novella was first written, still retains the original text's original relevance – the notion of humans as monsters being writ large in 100 foot high glowing neon letters in this flick, and even the idea of terrorism in a post-9/11 world gets a run. What's outside is pretty lethal, but what's inside is positively terrifying.

The performances are fine – of special note is Marcia Gay Harden's role as the barking mad religious nutter Mother Carmody, where basically she channels Alice Krige in psycho-mode (think Silent Hill or Sleepwalkers) for the better part of two hours. Thomas Jane is a pretty good square-jawed hero, and oddly enough, the actor playing his son didn't make me want to kill him within the opening 5 minutes; I loathe child actors. By the way, have you seen House By The Cemetery?

I found that this film worked the tension, worked the character-acting goodness (after all, there are no name actors here, and still, the acting goodness prevails), and gives you plenty to talk about with your mates over beers later. I do have to say, the splashy statement on the cover that the film has: "One of the most shocking endings EVER!" was probably a little hyperbolic – but then again, I guess that if you're a person who's never, say, watched an episode of The Twilight Zone, that might be true. If anything this film does prove that Hollywood can still have teeth, even if they are designed by a computer...     
Maybe seeing this baby at the cinema might have been different, but there were certain moments where the CG became more than a little intrusive, especially where it had to interact with the real actors. That aside, the 1.78:1 transfer is fine. 2.35:1 would have been much better given the scale of the film. This is nitpicking, however, particularly as the film is driven by the characters themselves.
Again, no probs – the monsters are very fucking scary sounding in 5.1 as well as looking – watch it and see what I mean…
Extra Features
A pretty standard collection of extras, but that's not to say they're not any good. First up, there's a director commentary with Frank Darabont, which is certainly worth a listen. Darabont always comes across as bit of a decent fella – a bit of an average Joe, as King himself does; no pretence, no delusions of grandeur. Of course there's a "making of" featurette – you know the kind of thing to expect. Theatrical trailers are a blah kind of "special feature" to begin with, and well, the last one… Well, the last special feature is a conversation between Frank Darabont and Stephen King. By the end of it I kept waiting for these guys to descend into a warm soapy bath and play 'hide the submarine' together – I've never seen such a mutual appreciation society – it's practically embarrassing to watch, if somewhat informative.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Finally, a good American horror flick that wasn't a re-make of something either Japanese, Hong Kong or South Korean, The Mist is a fine piece of work. Blood and guts a-plenty, tension that'll have you at the edge of your seat, cool monsters, an almost hopeless and desperate scenario and characters you actually give a rat's arse about – seek this down now before the whole US film industry disappears into it's own fundamental orifice. Top notch straight horror in a decent package, although the Region 1 2-disc 'Collector's Edition' is a better option.

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