Posted on: October 23rd, 2009 TEN of TERROR #7: The Mist

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When this film came out in November of ‘07, I wrote what could be one of my most praising reviews yet and I still stand by that, making our seventh entry in TEN of TERROR the adaptation of the Stephen King short story… The Mist.

Simply put, The Mist is phenomenally underrated. It’s got everything that a horror-sci-fi film fanatic could want and it doesn’t treat you like you’re an idiot. The direction, courtesy of the great Frank Darabont, is fantastic, the writing is tight and suspenseful and the creature design is original and terrifying. The film is an entity all it’s own, while at the same time paying homage to traditional horror and fantasy crafted by the likes of John Carpenter and The Twilight Zone, and dipping it’s tentacled toes in H.G. Wells and H.P. Lovecraft. Above and beyond all that, The Mist is so much fun to watch with your friends.

The Mist follows David Drayton (played by fanboy-hunk Tom Jane) in a small Maine town the day after a wicked thunderstorm. Drayton, his young son, and a dozen or so townsfolk find themselves trapped in the local supermarket when a thick mist covers the town. Things go from alarming to deadly, as horrific creatures begin to emerge from the dense fog. Renegade tentacles, guns, mop-torches, mob-frenzies, corpses exploding with alien spiders, dragon-beasts, stingers in the neck, severed torsos… need I go on?

mist2bThe film takes the high-road at every turn and paints a picture of humanity and morality that’s startlingly real though surrounded by fantastical elements. The Mist tackles fear and desperation on a basic human level. There are undertones of racial tension and class separation. Examples of the best and worst parts of a conceptual Americana are painted in gloomy strokes, making the fatal fog a backdrop for the question: is this all karma? From a science-fiction standpoint, the film succeeds where most other modern creature-features become bogged down; the origin of the mist and it’s monsters is only vaguely mentioned in dialogue once. We don’t need to know where they came from and how they got here, that’s not important to us, just as it’s not important to the folks stuck in the supermarket. All that really matters is how they survive these new threats.

If you haven’t, go check out my initial review so I don’t go on like a broken record about how fun and creative this little flick is. Major praise and recognition must be given to Frank Darabont for seeing this project through; it’s one Stephen King adaptation he had intended to do after The Shawshank Redemption but instead took on The Green Mile. You can tell that The Mist is a labor of love – the film just feels like everything received that extra attention. Darabont was extremely respectful to the source material, but took it and made it his own, most noticeably with the film’s dark and dreary ending. While the film version doesn’t negate the conclusion of King’s short story, it does carry on after and provide a finite answer to the fates of our characters. Stephen King himself praised Darabont’s ending, which arguably is more terrifying than the creatures or themselves. Not only did I leave the theater shaken, asking what I would do in Drayton’s shoes, but I was completely surprised that a major studio would have the balls to let Darabont see this vision realized. Where the film could have gone the way of a typical Hollywood horror ending, instead audiences were jolted with a thought-provoking, mentally-jarring Empire Strikes Back-esque finale.

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When the film was released on DVD, Dimension included the black and white version of the film as well; make no mistake, this is the superior cut of the film, and the one you should watch immediately (a video introduction by Darabont himself reveals this version to be his preferred). The Mist truly comes alive in black and white and the film becomes infinitely scarier, it’s atmosphere truer. Every grain, every detail pops and the film becomes timeless. The film’s already distinct camera-work, provided by the same crew from The Shield TV series, almost feels like a documentary from the fifties, or a living, breathing radio show of horror. I can’t stress enough how awesome the black and white cut of the film is.

So many people mention The Descent as a contender for the best horror movie of recent years. While I loved The Descent, and wouldn’t argue that, The Mist is completely underrated and more worthy of such a title. Perhaps it’s the CGI that threw people off – it’s no Transformers, folks, but let us not forget how popular I Am Legend is, and that had atrocious visual effects. Or maybe it’s the aforementioned shocking ending that didn’t agree with the mainstream-big-mommas-house audience (though to be fair, the film does currently sit at 72% fresh over at Rotten Tomatoes). None of these arguments matter though, as some of the greatest films ever made were ill-received by theaters. The Mist is bold, it’s a unique celebration of the genre, and it nails everything it sets out to do: entertain, terrify and inspire. I strongly encourage you to take in The Mist once more, or watch it for the first time with the lights out.

Trivia

  • William Sadler, who plays the character of Jim in the film, provided the voice for David Drayton for the audio version of the novel.
  • The first scene in the film shows the David Drayton character painting in his room; among the pieces are a design for Stephen King’s Dark Tower and a movie poster for John Carpenter’s The Thing, both of which were created by the legendary movie-poster artist Drew Struzan (including the poster for The Mist).
  • One of the rotating book-displays in the supermarket contains only Stephen King books.
  • Writer/Director Frank Darabont would only do the film with Dimension if they let his ending stay intact.
  • Stephen King himself was offered the role of the biker character, which he turned down.
  • The film was shot during the six-week hiatus of the TV series The Shield. The Mist used their camera crew, cinematographer, editor and script-supervisor. Frank Darabont has directed episodes of the show.
  • Frank Darabont had originally written a scene for the beginning of the film that showed the origin of the creatures. Star Andre Braugher convinced Darabont to leave this scene out (thank goodness).
  • The first tentacled creature we see in the film is incredibly similar to another creature from the Stephen King story, From A Buick 8.

TEN of TERROR continues soon with #8!

4 Responses to “TEN of TERROR #7: The Mist”

  1. Gavin Stone Says:
    October 23rd, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    This movie is excelent in every way.

  2. dale Says:
    October 24th, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    This is one time in the Ten of Terror were I have to disagree. I knew nothing of the movie when I watched it and can’t say it had any impact on me what so ever when it was over except that I thought the ending was embarrassingly acted.

    I do however think that the black and white cut is a far more appropriate way to watch. I haven’t seen that version, but feel it would make a better fit.

    Really, I think it was the characters that rubbed me into not liking the whole thing. I could have forgiven some short comings had I liked the characters. The scene in the ‘back warehouse’ area with the ‘Sherminator’ from american pie and the church woman that splits the stores people really stand out as characters that ruined it.

    And for as much as you praise it I keep second guessing my thoughts on the movie. Maybe a second black & white viewing is in order? But then I think of the ending and change my mind.

    Boo The Mist… Have I mentioned how much I like the trivia at the end of this pieces? : )

  3. Tommo Says:
    October 28th, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Love this movie. Unfortunately I only recently got to see this movie (recently meaning 2 weeks ago on Movie Central), having wrongfully ignored it when it was released. I mistakenly thought it was similar to the horrid re-make of “The Fog”, and didn’t bother with it. Man, did it suck me in when I happened to be flipping channels and stumbled across it. There was a lasting impact for me, both in the horror imagery that Darabont conjured so effectively, and in the apocalyptic ending.
    If I ever get to meet Frank Darabont, I will personally give him $12.50 and an apology.

  4. TEN of TERROR RECAP! « Giant Killer Squid - Film, Comics, News, Reviews and more Says:
    October 31st, 2009 at 10:33 am

    [...] #7: The Mist [...]

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