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The Test of Time: The Mist (2007)

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they remain must see? So…the point of this column is to determine how a film holds up for a modern horror audience, to see if it stands the Test of Time.

DIRECTED BY: FRANK DARABONT

STARRING: THOMAS JANE, LAURIE HOLDEN, MARCIA GAY HARDEN, JEFFREY DEMUNN, TOBY JONES

Speak up friends, how many of you are currently wading through Spike TV’s The Mist? Any of you find it even remotely on par with Frank Darabont’s polemical 2007 big-screen adaptation of the venerated Stephen King novel? Anyone at all?

Before you spill your innards below, let us take a take a look back at what made THE MIST work so well a decade ago. Remember, Darabont has not made a film since, and one might even argue that without THE MIST, the initial cast of THE WALKING DEAD as we know it may have never been. Aside from Thomas Jane failing to land the role of Rick Grimes, as Darabont intended, everyone from Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Melissa McBride, Juan Gabriel Pareja and Sam Witwer all appeared on the first season of the Darabont ran series. Hell, I’m getting a little MISTy just thinking of those sumbitches!

But back to THE MIST itself, an A-list production of a B-list creature feature. A movie that not only delivers genuine chills, but runs the gamut of hysterical characterizations: the faithful zealots, the sober pragmatists, the frightened paranoiacs, the heroically bold and brazen, the callously weak-willed…all crammed together under one roof - that of a grocery store, a bastion of consumption and commercialism - as a horde of large inimical insects descend from a dense scrim of ominous MIST. We ask here and now, as the film celebrates both its 10th anniversary this year and an inspired TV show to boot, has the Darabont venture withstood The Test of Time? Let’s find out!

THE STORY: Originally conceived by the King during a visit to his own local Maine grocery store, in which he wondered what would happen if a giant insects slammed into the plate glass window storefront – THE MIST takes a very simple approach and executes it seamlessly. A group of disparate denizens are forced to reconcile their own personal beliefs and differences when stuck together under an insectile incursion. Our main man David, a poster-artist with a wife and child, becomes our de facto leader, precisely qualified because he doesn’t really want to be. With a sensible and pragmatic approach, he must conduct a cooperative effort to quash the otherworldly invasion and save his own family, doing so despite the escalating hysteria, fractious allegiances, pious fervor and cabin-fevered paranoia. No big deal, right?

WHAT HOLDS-UP: Because he tends to favor quality over quantity, most of Darabont’s movies hold up incredibly well, and THE MIST is certainly no exception. From the opening shot of THE THING poster, we immediately draw comparisons to Carpenter’s similarly premised THE FOG, as well as the very themes of paranoia and mistrust that his shape-shifting classic deals with. This movie brilliantly sums ups its own thematic underpinnings right from the jump. But really, if we had to whittle it down, I’d say the three primary pillars that have so sturdily propped up THE MIST over the past ten years would have to be the well rounded acting, the impressive VFX and of course, that controversially heart-sinking conclusion….the one caveat Darabont insisted on remaining in the movie if he were to direct. Balls, yo!

It starts with Thomas Jane as our reluctant antihero. This dude has always flashes an everyman quality, and here he’s the perfect conduit for us the audience to ride with and root for. With the overaggressive hicks on one side, the religiously fanatic on the other, David walks the middle road, allowing us to take a bit of a neutral stance amid all the surrounding chaos and craziness. Then there is the support system. Not just the aforementioned stable of Darabont regulars – DeMunn and Holden in specific – but man, Marcia Gay Harden gives such a dedicated, almost Kabuki style turn that it calls to mind another febrile King written bible-thumper, Margaret White in CARRIE. Her fear-fuelled hatred and heinous homilies are just as gross and off-putting as those viscid bug-tentacles, maybe more. Harden as Mrs. Carmody is one of the most loathsomely shrill mouthpieces ever seen on film, the kind we root for to get her just desserts.

Toby Jones as the unassuming Ollie, who we think is too weak to take any real action, proves to be a minor hero in his own right when confronting Carmody. Andre Braugher as the uppity neighbor who reveals his own ulterior agenda also brings a memorable performance to the table, as he usually does. William Sadler as Jim, Alexa Davalos as Sally, all solid support pieces that make the ensemble feel not only whole, but demographically varied. There’s every stripe, color and creed inside the store, and the actors do a splendid job of bringing them all to life. Hell, even the Sherminator (Chris Owen) gets sucked into the MIST like a G!

Of course, we know creature features can’t work without credible crawlers. And I know it’s only been 10 years, but damn, the VFX in THE MIST are still pretty damn buyable. Part of this has to do with the multitude of species and designs – large, small, winged, tentacled, flying, grounded, you name it. The one shot where the MIST lifts for a second and we see the window-front adorned in a spate of landed wing-flapping bugs is masterfully jarring. Same goes for the spider-webbing cocoon sequence and all its concomitant gore. All props go out to the KFX team, and ironically, Greg Nicotero, the man who would end up show-running following Darabont’s unceremonious departure. These dudes are first rate at what they do, and Darabont took full advantage!

Really though, the one thing everyone remembers about THE MIST is its hard-to-swallow finale. I think it holds up. It not only reinforces human fallibility, it underscore the very lack of faith that Carmody dogmatically preaches against. David had no faith he and his family were going to be saved, and therefore took a measure he thought to be the quickest and least painful. It’s an act of clemency on his behalf, a well-intentioned one, it just turns out to be poorly timed and misguided. THE MIST blinded the man’s line of recourse, which, given the overarching religious themes, might be the most profound thing the movie has to offer.

And while Darabont is credited for fostering the ending, unwavering in his vision to keep it intact, those who’ve read King’s novel knows it was flirted with in the book as well. Not in actuality, but in David’s mind, he ruminates on a similar option before coming to his senses and acting otherwise. King not only signed off on Darabont’s unflinching finale, he conceded it was the best way to end the story, and wished he’d had the balls to write it that way himself. Like it, dislike it, love it or hate it, the ending of THE MIST is an extremely bold and uncompromising way to conclude a major mainstream movie. Hell, it may have ended Darabont’s filmmaking career for all we know, and you know what? 10 years later and I fully, 100% support the decision. The irony? For all the lack of faith in the film, its Darabont’s fidelity to the story, not the audience, that will surely stand the Test of Time!

WHAT BLOWS NOW: The insipid TV show it inspired, that’s what blows now. Oh we jape, because we have very little negativity to highlight in THE MIST. Part of that has to do with being only 10 years old, but even so, there aren’t many weak spots to any aspects of the movie. We’re talking the alchemy of a King/Darabont marriage, the Oscar winning union behind SHAWSHANK. These dudes know what the hell they’re doing!

THE VERDICT: Granted, the Test hasn’t been too long, but damn if THE MIST hasn’t aged incredibly well over its first decade. Many reasons account for this, primary among them the pedigree. Darabont is a first-class filmmaker, Stephen King our preeminent horror scribe. Together, no limits. And certainly no compromises. Not only is THE MIST’s entertainment value repeatedly watchable, the acting, VFX and soul-crushing conclusion keep the movie atop the list of King adaptations. Now only if the DARK TOWER can follow suit!

GET THE MIST ON DVD HERE

GET THE MIST ON BLU-RAY HERE

Extra Tidbit: Give us your take on THE MIST below!
Source: AITH

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