Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stephen King's The Mist

Yeah, I was surprised by this one too...

When I first saw the ads for this one, I just rolled my eyes. Maybe it was just the fact that for every well made Stephen King adaptation there is, there are a slew more memorably bad ones. More likely it's because this movie was released about a year after the The Fog, a horrendous remake of the John Carpenter movie with a similar premise. I probably would have forgotten about it entirely had it not been for a good amount of internet buzz legitimately praising as being a modern classic. When it came out on video, I kicked myself for not getting in on the ground floor of this one.

I tried to spread the gospel of this movie before starting this blog, but every time I tried explaining it to people, they kept assuming I was talking about the remake of The Fog. Once I cleared it up with them that it wasn't The Fog, they then assumed it was a shitty knock off of The Fog. So here I am breaking down reasons why you should see this movie.

1. It's not The Fog.
Seriously. It has nothing to do with it.

2. It's written and directed by Frank Darabont.
Don't recognize that name? He's the guy who gave us The Shawshank Redemption (which, interestingly enough, is another movie based on a Stephen King story that was initially overlooked) and The Green Mile. If you've seen either of those, this should be pretty self explanatory.

3. It's a damn good thriller.
Okay, here's where I'm going to devote the bulk of my efforts. This movie is essentially a B-movie made better than anybody should have ever made one. After a devastating storm hits a small New England town, (for any Stephen King fans out there, yes it's Castle Rock,) a mysterious mist rolls down from the mountains. The town residents find themselves trapped in the local grocery store when a man runs inside, covered in blood, claiming something in the mist is killing people. The "something" turns out to be a horde of alien creatures.

While the premise is strictly B-movie, the characters are developed up to A-movie standards. The heros, played by Thomas Jane and Laurie Holden, aren't a pair of hard-asses with quotable one-liners. Instead they're believeable as ordinary Joes who find themselves the voice of reason in and increasingly maddening situation.

There's the skeptic, a New York City lawyer vacationing in town. While B-movie skeptics tend to have the strange ability to doubt that the monster/demon/phantom attacking people is real, even when the evidence is staring him/her right in the face, in The Mist, we can kind of see the skeptic's point... for a while at least.

But the real surprise is how this movie uses the token religious nut, Mrs. Carmody, played by Marcia Gay Harden. She starts out as a simple cliche. She's the one who starts shouting bible verses in the background when it's apparent that monsters are among them. Yet as the movie progresses, she steps out of the background and emerges as the main villain, one worse than the monsters outside.

She begins to convince the people trapped within the store that the monsters are a punishment from God, whipping them into a frenzy that anybody who doesn't side with her must be sacrificed. This of course leaves the heroes in a catch 22 situation, where they can either be killed by the monsters outside, or killed by the people in the store.

As a horror movie, The Mist isn't really scary, but as a thriller, it's a genuine nail biter. Be warned that it's also frustrating to watch. You'll probably find yourself wanting to kill Mrs. Carmody halfway through the movie, yet find yourself feeling as helpless as the other characters in doing something about it. As for the monsters, while they aren't the focus of the film, when show up onscreen they're convincingly frightening, a rarity for sci-fi movies.

By the way, should you end up watching this and decide you want to own it, there's a two disc collectors edition available with a black and white version of the film included.