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Review: The Mist

The Mist
9 10

PLOT: After a massive storm causes major damages for a Maine family’s home, David Drayton and his son take a trip to pick up some groceries and supplies. Along with them comes a neighbor named Brett Norton who has some bad history with David. Yet the destruction offers them a chance to be civil and neighborly. Once they arrive at the crowded grocery store, a thick mist surrounds the store and everything around it. It is then one of the town’s citizens comes with a warning of something in the mist. As tension mounts and the denizens realize the danger lurking outside, a bible thumping religious woman named Mrs. Carmody begins speaking of the apocalypse. As the danger of what lurks just beyond the store, another danger fills the citizens as they begin to take sides as fear takes away all good will.

REVIEW: I had the opportunity to see THE MIST twice before writing this review. And the funny thing is, after the first time, I had no intention of seeing the film again. It’s not a bad film, at all. In fact, it is one of the best horror films to come out this year. But it is a strong, emotionally draining movie with an ending that would make Stephen King proud (and apparently, it has). With that said, it is a rare occasion where a horror film can cause such a extreme impact on a viewer. And it is not because of extreme gore, nor is it explicit violence. It is simply a scary look at human nature and how it can get pretty ugly when all hope is lost. Rarely do we see this kind of film with so many well thought out characters that feel as real as they do here. Thus, it is a stronger punch in the gut as the film progresses.

It begins much like a Stephen King story normally would. There is a storm that quickly covers this small Maine town. It seems like just another storm as it creates a whole lot of damage, including a large tree to crash down upon David Drayton’s (Thomas Jane) boat house. With his wife and son caught up in the aftermath, he approaches his neighbor, the man who he told to cut the tree down a year ago, and makes an inquiry about his insurance. Yet Brett Norton (Andre Braugher) has his own issues going on after his car is destroyed. In a temporary moment of truce, Brett agrees to give him the insurance information and David lets Brett tag along with him and his son to the local market.

Once they arrive, they find the store packed with others looking for essentials. All seems to be normal until a man runs into the store. He is terrified and warns of something in the mist. Soon, the entire store is covered in a thick fog making it impossible to see outside. And through a series of events, they realize that something deadly is outside waiting for them. All of the townsfolk start to feel fear and dread as people disappear when they leave the front door and the sounds of screams follow. One woman begins to speak of God and how we have mocked his name. In fact, Mrs. Carmody speaks of the Apocalypse and it starts to feel like maybe she’s right. Marcia Gay Harden delivers a magnificent performance here as a woman preaching as if she were God’s vessel. A fact which she truly believes. Her savior is an angry one who may just be taking out his anger on all the people she calls sinners. If this film is going to get any kind of award, it will surely be Ms. Harden for delivering a frightening look at the power of someone spouting off words of hellfire to an terrified crowd.

Yes, there are a ton of scary stuff in THE MIST. We’re talking massive spiders, and locusts and other beasties that range in size. The ones with the tentacles are almost completely unseen, and that helps keep the fear factor going throughout. But occasionally, the CG feels much too… well, computerized, and isn’t always as creepy as it should be. With that being the case, I found that even if the special effects had been dreadful, it is a far more sinister aspect of the film that makes it work. When a group of people have to survive, they sometimes find that those around them may not be helping but hindering. Thus there is a breakdown of society. This is a very common story for many Hollywood films, but it is especially good here. As Mrs. Carmody begins to bring people to “see the light”, and sets off disruption and a very disturbing witch hunt ensues.

Frank Darabont who is no stranger to Stephen King (THE GREEN MILE, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION) takes on a different side of the author. His earlier works were much more poetic and less about fear or the supernatural. Much like his earlier attempts, he directs with assuredness. Yet this time he grabs at you, pulling you in with an almost documentary feel. At times, he offers up a stark close-up of the actor, and those images speak tons. One example is when Brett talks a few of the other people to just leave, and refuses to believe that there is something in the mist. This image of him and his part disdain and part doubt to what David and others “think” they saw, is a wonderful moment. You can see so much as the camera moves in on Andre. This is only an example. Frank brings the audience in and keeps us there with his stark, no-holds-barred storytelling. Which offers up a surprising amount of humanity, even when the monsters attack.

Another plus is the casting of Thomas Jane as the protective father who also tries to help the others trapped in the market. His solid performance is so heart wrenching, that when you get to the final moments, it makes the outcome even deeper and darker than it might have been. He and his son Billy (Nathan Gamble) are one-hundred percent believable. The second time I saw the film, this relationship became even more important. If these two actors didn’t connect, the film might have been much less than what it was. But luckily, it all adds up and has many other terrific performances including Laurie Holden, William Sadler, Toby Jones and many others. And credit must go to Darabont who is able to balance most of these people and make them all equally important in his tale. After all, a breakdown of society takes an entire society and not just a couple of interesting people.

I’ve read descriptions of this film as a B-movie. But I tend to disagree with that. It may have many of the things that a good b-movie may have, including those pesky giant bugs. And even the sometimes weak CG could have brought it down a notch. But with some terrific actors and the sure handedness of the director, it is far deeper than that. Even it’s ending, which I will not give away, is one that will guarantee strong reaction out of it’s audience. It was changed slightly from King’s original short, but honestly, it feels as much like a King book as a film translation ever could. Don’t let anyone tell you it was done to make it more commercial or to make the film more audience friendly. It was a very effective end that makes you question and discuss everything you had just witnessed. This is not just a Hollywood style b-movie. It is a terrifying yet thoughtful and potent tale of the power of fear, which earns itself the honor of being one of the best King adaptations to date.

My rating 9/10 -- JimmyO





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