The Mist
Director: Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Majestic)
Novel: Stephen King
Screenplay: Frank Darabont
Producers: Liz Glotzer, Frank Darabont
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 127 min
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reviewed by Andrew Dykstra
     The Mist marks the third feature collaboration between Stephen Kingís literary work and Frank Darabontís adaptation magic. The most noticeable development is that this is Darabontís first crack at adapting the kind of story King is most famous for: a straight-up horror piece. After delivering the more humanized stories of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, something as stripped down and frightening as The Mist is seemingly a marked departure from the Capra-esque dramas that Darabont is best known for. Then again, the man knows how to adapt King for the screen arguably better than anyone, so that the shift in tone may not only be natural, but inevitable.

      The story opens during a violent thunderstorm in a sleepy bayside town in Maine (an unmistakable King signature) where we first meet David Drayton, a family man and movie poster artist hard at work as the storm rages outside. The next day finds a massive tree that made his studio its final resting place during the night, destroying most of his artwork inside. When David and his wife and son survey the damage, they find that they were not the only victims of the devastating winds; the shoreline is littered with uprooted trees and debris. As he makes plans to run to the town store to pick up materials for the necessary repairs, his son Billy points his attention to a thick, unnatural mist pouring out of a gap in the mountains lining the bay, spreading in the direction of the house and the town. Though He thinks it odd, David leaves his wife at the house while he and Billy make their way into town with their neighbor Brent Norton, an out-of-town New York attorney. When they get to the store, itís already full of people going about their business.

      What happens after, as the mist blankets the town and shows its horrific hand, is a slowly escalating nightmare that sacks the viewer in the gut and leaves them crushed by the climax. The Mist works fantastically as a B-horror flick, elevating the simplistic premise with engaging plays at subtext, hugely talented actors and some truly messed up creature design, throwing in some provocative (and fairly loud) social commentary to boot.

      One common element that Darabont carries over from his previous work to The Mist is the deeply human factor at work within the story. Despite the fact that there are unexplainable and otherworldly forces wreaking havoc on a small town of people, itís the people themselves that take the center stage as protagonists, antagonists, and the shapers of destinies, so to speak. There comes into play a fascinating observation of the pervasive effect of fear on human beings, and this observation develops the core of the story. By the end of it, there is no doubt as to the ideology that the movie stands by, and itís a bitter pill. Of course I canít go into details, but I will say that Darabont has some brass balls for what he did to the rather ambiguous ending to Kingís novella.

      The weaknesses of The Mist are notable. To elaborate on what I alluded to before, the loudness of the social commentary ended up being an uncomfortable aspect to the film, and one that I think hurt the story overall because of all the explicit insinuations it makes toward the current socio-political climate, when a subtler tack might have been more effective. At the center of the emotional conflict inside the band of survivors in the store is Mrs. Carmody, who is, to quote Heywood from Shawshank, ďCrazier than a rat in a tin shithouseĒ. While there are other more minor characters portraying the thinkers, followers, waiters etc., she serves as the illustration of irrational religious fanaticism that pervades the heart of the group. While the statements she makes and the breed of people she represents (loveless, hypocritical whores for a cold religion) can easily be found inside todayís climate, I felt that there was too much emphasis placed on the social manipulation of her fake crusade. Darabontís decision to heavily imply the social parallels of the cinematic adaptation with todayís American culture is bold, but perhaps a bit overstated.

      As I said before though, the horror element is excellent, doing its job and scaring the crap out of the audience in all the right ways. The CGI monsters are truly terrifying to behold, and the threat of their invasion produces a palpable fear for the audience. Itís not yet a genre classic, per se, but itís definitely an expertly crafted scarefest that will not only sufficiently creep the audience out, but hopefully offer some fodder for intellectual discussion afterwards.

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