PLENTY OF SPOILERS AS ALWAYS –
I RECOMMEND SEEING THIS AS SOON AS YOU CAN!
It’s amazing that this well-made and genuinely horrific horror flick has only just been granted a UK cinema release. I actually watched this on DVD in the States about a month ago. Now that it’s writhed its way onto the big screen over here, it seems an appropriate time to post the review. The TV I watched it on was about the size of a football field, so I don’t think my experience of it is going to be all that different from anyone’s in the UK!
So, here goes. First of all – let’s recognise Frank Darabont as one of the few directors who can pull off a good Stephen King movie adaptation. This could be because he sticks to the short stories, or the ones with the more down to earth aspects (Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption) and he’s got a gift with characterisation. He also, crucially, trusts the material – but makes smart changes where required.
Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs Carmody, the town’s religious kook,
who transitions from hilarious to terrifying as horrific events unfold.
In The Mist, we see some of Stephen King’s trademarks. Following a massive storm, a Small Isolated Town™ is overwhelmed by a creeping Mist (well, what else…) and the people who go shopping in the local store get a nasty shock as various deadly things within the Mist begin to pick them off. All that stands between the terrified locals and a gruesome death is the supermarket’s big glass window. Eeep.
Surviving small town life…
Mainly we follow family man David Drayton (hooray, Thomas Jane!) who wants to protect his young son (the kid is mercifully free of Christ-like tendencies or psychic powers, unusually for King movies). Although initially the danger comes from the monsters outside, a far scarier religious mania gradually seizes the bunch of desperate survivors. The local religious nut, Mrs Carmody (brilliantly and ambiguously played by Marcia Gay Harden) is more than happy to help turn the situation into something even deadlier. You might be wondering why they don’t just bonk her on the head halfway through!
David Drayton (Thomas Jane) tries to protect his young son, who seems to have dodged both ‘annoying’ and ‘psychic power’ clichés that Stephen King adaptations tend to attract…
Darabont milks the claustrophobia to brilliant effect, and you’ll be annoyed by how much it matters to you when characters get picked off. This could be due to most of the actors being halfway familiar, even if you can’t quite place them at the time. I guess the important word here is ACTORS; these aren’t bland movie stars or big-boobed screaming teenagers! You’ll even care for General Mancheck (Andre Braugher)! Playing a sympathetic lawyer (major achievement) he really proves he’s more than just a mini-series staple. Another familiar face, Laurie Holden, takes a break from surviving another mist-swathed mountain town in Silent Hill. (Yes, ok, it was actually ASH in Silent Hill but I bet the CGI was the same….). There’s also the store manager, Ollie Weeks (Toby Jones) who displays considerable resourcefulness and puts his intimate knowledge of aisle 3 to good use.
This is a refreshingly unsentimental adaptation, easily reaching the heights of Misery and touching on the Shining’s boots with its pure understanding of horror and suspense. It also has some of the best monsters since Pan’s Labyrinth – only these are far more vicious and truly terrifying Lovecraftian beasties that seem entirely made of teeth, tentacle and nightmare. Even if a gigantic one at the end resembles the Cloverfield beastie.
Don’t go into the Mist! The last few survivors run for their lives…
I warned you about the spoilers, right? Well, I’m still not going to ruin it for you. This has a sucker-punch ending, sure to provoke a vast amount of swearing at the screen. It’s also different from the original short story – another example of those ‘smart changes’. And you will either love it or loathe it. I think the nearest film I can compare it to is Frailty – which also left you pondering the cosy certainties about good, evil, and free will in general.
I’d been looking forward to seeing this adaptation, and it lived up to my expectations about it, whilst being even tougher and more interesting! It’s very good to see this getting to the UK and it deserves a decent word of mouth.
A highly recommended horror film which takes no prisoners!
No, I really think it’s gonna eat him…