Sunday, March 21, 2010

Archive: 'The Mist'

Movie Review
The Mist (2007)

Along with "1408," this is another superb translation of a Stephen King novella onto the big screen. "The Mist" is even better because it manages to be what all R-rated horror movies should be: tense, spooky, surreal, eerie, and with just enough gore to keep you on the edge of your seat. Enough of that torture porn already. Director Frank Darabont, who also directed Stephen King's "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile," is uncompromising here and has created something that is dark and shockingly pessimistic. It's definitely not the feel-good movie of the season, especially with a bleak ending that actually departs from the originally unresolved conclusion.

Most fascinating about the movie is how Darabont uses the interplay between characters that are in a threatening and frightening situation. Fear brings out the worst in people, and as the movie progresses, we witness a small group of isolated people gradually become more hostile and on-edge. There's something to be said about mob mentality, insanity, paranoia, prejudice, trust, religious fanaticism, and absolute hopelessness. And that's all without even mentioning the real danger of the creatures, which all linger outside in a menacing mist.

It all starts when a family man named David Drayton (Thomas Jane) is painting in his studio when a turbulent storm hits. He, his wife, and his son all head into the basement, and in the aftermath, they discover the storm's damage along with a thick mist over the water. David goes with his son and neighbor into town to a local supermarket where a blackout is causing all sorts of chaos; too bad that's hardly the worst yet to come. A siren sounds, and the mist envelopes the entire area surrounding the store. Suddenly, a man comes racing into the store covered in blood, screaming about how something is out there. Soon thereafter, David and a group of store employees go into the back room and accidentally come across just what exactly this "something" is.

Among the people trapped inside the supermarket is a crazed religious woman named Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden). She believes the mist is a sign of the apocalypse and that it is God's punishment for all the sin in the world. In shouting tyrants, she claims that the only way to save themselves is to sacrifice those amongst them who don't believe her. As tensions mount and the danger is fully realized, the people break off into three groups: those who go along with Mrs. Carmody's enraged rants, those who pretend that there is no real threat, and those who believe there are monsters and want to take action. It literally boils down to weighing the options between the evil on the outside and the evil on the inside.

Marcia Gay Harden is absolutely bone-chilling as Mrs. Carmody, and her insane preaching will certainly get to you. Without giving anything away in relation to her, let's just say it was the first time I've ever clapped during a movie. Thomas Jane as the protagonist, David, is ideal as a level-headed, reasonable man who is just the type of leader you would feel safe following; he's simply trying to keep everything together while using as much common sense as possible. Meanwhile, there are those people who are easily able to violently rally together in times of such unease.

Increasingly freaky monsters start emerging from the mist, including one sequence where a hoard of massive-sized bugs start landing on the glass front of the supermarket. You can only imagine what ensues when the glass finally gives way. The CGI isn't the most spectacular, but it doesn't need to be; the best and creepiest moments happen when all you see are the monsters looming out in the mist. This is especially true during one horrifying and awe-inspiring scene late in the movie. The majority of the time is spent inside the supermarket, and the biggest frights are when different groups of people attempt to leave their safe spot.

The main thing detracting from the experience is a faulty attempt at an explanation as to where the creatures and the mist all came from; it feels entirely unnecessary and obligatory, and it would've been better for the source to be left to our imaginations. Even so, "The Mist" avoids all horror movie cliches and presents an experience that is unpredictable and surreal; it really does play out like reading the actual novella. Best of all is that this is a horror movie successfully dealing with not only literal monsters but also the monster of humanity.

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