Sunday, 14 January 2018

Boxset Binge #9 - The End of the F***ing World



Adapted from the indie comic series of the same name by Charles S. Forsman the series follows 17 year old James (Alex Lawther) who believes he’s a psychopath and fellow classmate Alyssa (Jessica Barden) who has her own issues including a problematic home life which includes being sexually harassed by her stepfather. Wanting to escape their problems the pair set out on a spontaneous road trip / crime spree.


Switching between it’s two leads who take turn to narrate the story its clear from the start that both James and Alyssa are outsiders. James more obviously as he keeps to himself while observing his fellow students as he attempts to find the perfect victim to evolve his growing psychotic tendances which thanks to some Wes Anderson style framing (which sadly isn't carried past the pilot episode) we see has until now been restrained to various animals. Alyssa on the other side of things feels that she can’t connect with anyone around her as her so called friends want to talk to each other through text messages even when they are sitting across from each other. Equally with her explosive temper and general Don’t give a shit attitude especially with her mother seemingly more focused on living her life of domestic bliss to seemingly notice anything that’s happening with her daughter.

Thrown together the series initially is more focused on wether James will kill Alyssa or not, especially as his every other thought early on seems to be having fantasies of him killing her, but surprisingly its once the series moves past this and focuses instead on these two lost souls finding themselves through each other that the story really starts to find it’s grove with the pair finding themselves soon on the run from the law after a run in with an actual psychopath end messily.

Both Lawther and Barden are great as the leads and really manage to make this unlikely relationship work though the character of James does suffer from being at times limited especially for the first half of the series were he’s essentially limited to his psychotic fantasies and while his character is more redeemed in the second half of the series especially when we find out more about his troubled past. Alyssa however remains a fun and feisty character throughout especially when she’s seemingly unable to find any situation she can’t find someone to fallout with or to subject to her wrath.

Outside of the pairs Bonnie and Clyde antics, the show receives strong support from an interesting mix of characters in particular Gemma Whelan and Wunmi Mosaku as the detectives trying to track down James and Alyssa, while dealing with their own relationship being strained by a misguided advance but like everything in this series nothing should be taken on first impressions and this is certainly the case here as well and to watch them evolve over the course of the series only makes the world more believable as characters are given ample time to be fleshed out into multi-level characters rather than just being included to give a sense of tension to James and Alyssa’s journey.

Certainly this is one of the more unique series of last year it went largely unnoticed despite receiving a strong advertising push. Recently though the series got picked up by Netflix which is possibly the platform that it needs, especially as this fast paced black comedy is still worth discovering.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Elwood's Essentials #17 - The Crow



Title: The Crow
Director: Alex Proyas
Released: 1994
Starring: Brandon Lee, Michael Wincott, Ernie Hudson, Rochekke Davis, Bai Ling, David Patrick Kelly, Angel David, Jon Polito, Tony Todd, Sofia Shinas, Michael Massee, Laurence Mason

Plot: One year after being murdered Eric Draven (Lee) is resurrected by the power of The Crow to extract revenge on the gang who killed him and his fiancée Shelly (Shinas)

Review: An iconic cult movie for a number of reasons especially in terms of style and design aswell as the tragic death of leading man Brandon Lee in an event echoing the death of his own father Bruce Lee. More so when this film much like “Enter The Dragon” is frequently seen as the film which would have finally launched Brandon into the mainstream having previously put in memorable turns in “Showdown In Little Tokyo” and “Rapid Fire”. Certainly for myself it was one of those films whose VHS cover drew me in long before I knew anything about the film or it’s tragic and highly problematic production as I discovered it of all places in my local (and long since defunct) record store and since that initial discovery has remained a film I still love to go back and revisit.

Based on the equally cult comic book by James O’Barr who had originally wrote the story as a way of dealing with his own personal grief when his fiancée was killed by a drunk driver, while drawing further inspiration for the story from a newspaper article he'd read about a young couple who were killed in Detroit for a $20 engagement ring. At the same time it should be noted that while the source comic is still an incredible piece of work and certainly raw emotion with its distinctive black and white illustration it’s not a piece which works as a straight adaption. As such instead of following the source material’s path of unflinching violent revenge between bouts of Eric’s emotional torment we get a more traditional revenge movie yet one which still retains the core elements of the source material.

Proyas brings the world certainly to life here as he paints a crime riddled vision of Detroit were it is almost permanently night and raining, only allowing some colour into the world once Eric gets close to completing his quest for revenge. Proyas had though originally wanted to shoot the film completely in black and white and only use colour for the flashback sequences which the studio unsurprisingly wouldn’t get behind especially for what was already a risky concept. Still while perhaps not the vision he had intended this city of almost permanent midnight is still an effective playground for the story to playout in.

While he might not have been the first choice for the role of Eric with O’Barr citing Johnny Depp as his personal choice for the role, while River Phoenix and Christian Slater were also seen as being up for consideration for the part. Brandon Lee though was of course much more of an unknown talent and no doubt better known for being the son of a famous martial artist than his previous films, but watching the film now and seeing how he embodies the role of Eric its hard to see anyone else in the role and even now after numerous sequels it’s still Lee which we see as being the definitive embodiment of the character. What further helps Lee’s portrayal of the character are the moments of humanity he gets throughout rather than just being a vessel for revenge on T-Bird and his gang and while the flashbacks might be a little too smaltzy he does manage with these brief flashes of his former life manage to give us an idea of who he was before he became “The Crow”.

Considering Lee’s background as a martial artist it might seem strange in the fact that he doesn’t in fact get to do much bar a move here or there with the film being much more focused on heroic gunplay. Were it does pay off though is with his body movements and much like the casting of dancers like Michelle Yeoh in Martial Arts movies here it equally pays off as Eric is shown as moving with cat like movements especially as he prowls the city roof tops in search of the gang members on his list. The fact that he is so charismatic and hypnotic in his performance is only an added bonus.

Opening on “Devil’s Night” the night before Halloween were the city gangs cause acts of vandalism and arson throughout the city, which surprisingly was actually a thing in Detroit until the mid 90’s when it was Detroit official's organised “Angel’s Night” were volunteer patrols protect their neighbourhoods from arson attacks. Here though it’s seen as a calling card for the city’s top crime boss Top Dollar (Wincott) a minor character in the comic who here gets a promotion to the film’s big villain which is only added to by the charismatic Michael Wincott which might be his most iconic role to date outside of voicing “Death” in “Darksiders 2” and as such has meant that its always been kind of disappointing to see him frequently not getting to play more of these kinds of roles in the films he’s made since.

Top Dollar is really the perfect sort of villain for this Gothic vision of Detroit as he carries himself with the right amount of theatricality, while his half-sister / lover Myca (Ling) helps to fill in the rules for the crow by adding the subtle element of mysticism without the action getting too fantastical, which really isn’t the easiest thing when your essentially dealing with a supernatural force of vengeance. At the same time the gang responsible for murdering Eric along with his fiancée lead by the Milton quoting arsonist T-Bird (Kelly) are all colourful and unique in their quirks which ultimately become the tools of their demise and really add to this “Sin City” style world which Proyas creates here and which he would carry across to the criminally underrated “Dark City”.

The soundtrack throughout really makes the film a time capsule of it’s release with Proyas compiling a suitably grungy soundtrack featuring the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against The Machine and the Rollins band. Nine Inch Nails also fittingly provide a cover of the Joy Division track “Dead Souls” tying the film further to the source material. Proyas also features live performances by both Medicine and My Life With The Kill Thrill Cult the later whose club performance soundtracks the boardroom shoot-out. The only real downside to the soundtrack is the use of “Burn” by the Cure which is not down to the track which itself perfectly matches Eric applying his harlequin styled face paint but rather the issues come with the fact its a choppily edited version which really stands out if your familiar with the track. Unsurprisingly the grunge / goth ascetic of the film combined with the soundtrack which still holds up now saw the film being often sold in record stores, which is certainly how I first came across it were it was displayed amongst the VHS copies of “REM: Road Movie” and “Nirvana Live Sold Out”.

A fantastic film which unfortunately broke the mould so that any of the attempts to expand the mythology through different souls either in the films which followed or the numerous spin off comics / books none came close to matching what Brandon Lee gives us with Eric more often than not characters being left feeling like they were in some way attempting to mimic his performance and or character. As such this remains a beautiful curiosity and one which like any actor who dies when they are just getting noticed if this would have been his breakout film or not. Sadly we will never know but it remains a fitting end note to go out on.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Tag



Title: Tag
Director: Sion Sono
Released: 2015
Starring: Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, Erina Mano, Yuki Sakurai, Aki Hiraoka, Ami Tomite

Plot: Mitsuko (Triendl) a shy school girl finds her life thrown into chaos when she survives the massacre of her classmates during a class field trip, which is only the start of the weird and strange journey she now finds herself on

Review: After delivering a one two punch with his previous releases “Why Don’t You Play In Hell” and “Tokyo Tribe” there was certainly a level of excitement in how director Sion Sono would follow it up, more so when both films were so different from each other let much pretty much anything out there highlighting once more his unique approach to film making which has unsurprisingly seen him drawing comparisons to Takashi Miike’s outlaw period.

Opening with the massacre of a group of school girls by an “Evil Dead” style ominious wind which somehow has the ability to tear coaches in half and randomly decapitate anyone who gets in its way, with Sono perhaps in some way trying to beat his own record for school girl he set with the memorable subway sequence in “Suicide Club”. From this opening though things only get progressively more weird and surreal as Mitsuko now starts find herself moving from one bloody set piece to the next which was certainly hinted at with the trailer and which is certainly delivered on here and more.

Considering what starts off a seemingly straightforward soon mutates into something much different I will warn now Spoilers ahead as Sono once here has crafted something not only unique but equally a pain in the ass to attempt to explain which I will obviously attempt now.

Not content just to make another schoolgirl massacre movie, with “Tag” he truly catches the audience off guard as Misuko finds herself on a surreal journey which she constantly finds herself suddenly being thrust into different situations which sees her one moment running away from a high school massacre being carried out by the heavily armed teachers to the next moment being married to a groom with a pigs head. Some how Sono manages to pull the same trick which David Lynch has hung the best part of his career on by managing to somehow hold our attention for this ride even if at time you really have no idea if Sono knows the direction is going with the film and perhaps just making it up as he goes.

Taking inspiration from Yusuke Yamada’s 2001 novel which sees people who share the same surname being hunted down and which was turned into an ambitious five movie series. Here though we are given a world populated seemingly only by women, with the only men being the aforementioned pig man hybrid which is certainly a departure from the source material while retaining the theme of characters having to continiously run to ensure their survival which really is what ties the various characters Misuko finds herself suddenly turned into while the worlds slowly begin to blend together as the film builds to a frustratingly disappointing final reveal.

For the most part its an entertaining and highly unique ride we are taken on here with Sono walking a line between often amusingly over the top grindhouse splatter and arthouse style plotting which here somehow works as we switch from scenes of feminist solidarity to scenes of a wedding massacre or mass schoolgirl slaughter and perhaps because of these constant switches the film certainly holds the audiences attention no doubt as much as its baffling them. Still this is not a film intended for the mainstream especially when Sono is clearly crafting a film made of moments which intrest him and perhaps with a more cynical eye could just been seen as three half baked projected stitched together by with visceral imagery and sheer randomness.

Certainly there is an attempt to build a workable multiverse theory to justify the changes in scene of the fact that the actress playing Miksuko changes with each new setting, a transition certainly made easier by Mariko Shinoda and Erina Mano being as capable leading ladies as Reina Triendl able to carry a sense of familiarity between the three personas while helped further by Yuki Sakurai constant guiding presence throughout the film. At the same time to have schoolgirls justify the deep thinking of how this world work is alittle hard to take as seriously as Sono hoped it would, but atleast he throws in a random Gator attack to hold our attention.

While this might not be his best film to date, there is certainly enough to keep things entertaining while its tight run time only helps it further. However if this is your first experience with Sono’s work you might want to check out the likes of “Tokyo Tribe” or “Love Exposure” to understand his appeal as a director but this is still a fun if completely random watch all the same even if the pay off is weak.


Monday, 27 November 2017

Ghost In The Shell (2017)



Title: Ghost In The Shell
Director: Rupert Sanders
Released: 2017
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Carmen Pitt, Takeshi Kitano, Pilou Askaek, Chun Han, Juliette Binoche

Plot: In the near future most humans are augmented with cybernetic improvements but Major Mira Killian (Johansson) is the first to combine a cybernetic body with a human brain. Now working as part of the anti-terrorist bureau Section 9 she must track down the hacker Kuze who might hold the screrthe Major’s past.

Review: When it was first announced that they would finally be making the long mooted live-action remake of “Ghost In The Shell” it was of course met with cries of dismay from the fans who could see no way that Hollywood could replicate the cyberpunk tale, especially with its complex plotting and philosophical musing on the existence of a soul. Even if they could they are hardly things which hardly add up to a summer blockbuster which this was being pitched as especially with the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the Major adding to the already rampant assumptions of Hollywood whitewashing especially when many fans were pushing for the much more obvious choice Rinko Kikuchi to play the role.

Directed by Rupert Sanders whose only credit outside of a trio of short films was “Snow White and the Huntsman” which hardly sparked much confidence that this life action version would live up the legacy of the anime which is still regarded as one of the best of all time alongside the likes of “Akira” and “Perfect Blue”. It was of course a pleasant surprise to see Sander not attempting to do a straight remake but at the same time not trying to dumb it down either. If anything it can be seen that Sanders throughout is trying to not only pay homage to the original films director Mamoru Oshii with the inclusion of Oshii’s trademark Basset Hounds and even a nod to “Avalon”.

Shot as a “Blade Runner” style cyberpunk fantasy there are certainly the elements of the Oshii’s vision near future Japan replicated here especially the elements of Hong Kong which made his vision so diffrent and while Sanders vision certainly aims for a more futuristic vision heavily reminiscent of the aforementioned “Blade Runner” but it also seems to draw further inspiration from “Akira” especially with the extensive use of holographic advertisements which at times can prove detrimental as at time it feels like they clutter the landscape rather than adding to it and as such makes you appreciate the more intimate shots from the city streets or building interiors.

Despite the changes throughout there is still a sense of familiarity which runs throughout the film as characters such as the Major’s partner Batou (Asbaek) feel faithfully recreated though his eye implants only look the more questionable here than they did in the anime. ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano as Section Chief Aramaki though is an inspired piece of casting and unquestionably one of the key things which gave me hope that this wouldn’t be a dumbed down version of the anime. Frustratingly though when it comes to the rest of the Section 9 members they are so thinly sketched its hard to connect with them, making this much more of a buddy cop movie than it should have been.

While I may have had my own doubts of Scarlett Johansson’s ability in the role she really does manage to convincingly pull of the role and certainly a better casting choice than Margot Robbie who was also considered for the role and here she manages to convincingly pull off the detached and almost robotic outlook for the Major despite having a human brain. Infact so impressed with her performance Mamoru Oshii who’d been vocal on his own concerns surrounding the largely western cast gave her performance his own seal of approval and its certainly easy to see why when she is able to replicate so many of the key moments from the original film.

Scrapping the original “Puppet Master” plotline instead the plot here chooses to focus on the background of the Major in perticular the mystery surrounding her origins though the mystery hacker element is now filled by Kuze. We also get minor background details such as how Batou got his cybernetic eyes which I guess is great for anyone who really wanted to know these things. However while seemingly trying to craft his own story within this universe, there is still a large amount of material especially from the original film which has been pasted into the story in particular many of the key scenes such as the dumpster chase and most keyly the Major taking on a spider tank and certainly like so many elements of the film they all look fantastic. At the same time though the plotting can get heavy in places especially with Sanders trying to blend the new and original material which does result in the film certainly being more complex at times than it needed to be.

While there might be numerous nods to the source material it is still best to view this film as being its own entity than a remake, especially when here Sanders has chosen to craft a film with its own unique storyline, rather than adapt the Puppet Master plotline of the original film. This of course is not an issue, especially when the universe already established through the Manga, films and stand alone series (or complex) multiple independent timelines and when viewed this way the film certainly fits into this universe. On its own merits this is certainly an interesting approach to the material and certainly a smarter one than I was expecting to get and seeing what Sanders has established here, actually makes me keen to see him build on this world though whether that will happen or not still remains to be seen. For now though while not perfect certainly interesting enough to make it worth checking out.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Zoo



Title: Zoo
Director: Robinson Devor
Released: 2007

Plot: Documentary based on the life and death of Kenneth Pinyan Aka: Mr. Hands who died of peritonitis after having sex with a horse.

Review: While the bestiality subject matter might scream the short of subject matter for late night shock docs but what we get here instead is actually thoughtful and strangely beautiful documentary on one of the last great taboos - bestiality while looking at the zoophile’s who the film derives its title from.

Constructed using muted reinactments charting the events which lead up to Pinyan’s death, the film is narrated by the extensive interview footage which director Robinson Devor collected with both the members of the group that Pinyan belonged to but also with those such as Jenny Edwards who were called in to deal with the aftermath of Pinyan’s death.

Rather than just focus on the Pinyan’s death Devor instead makes the most of his access to the key members of the group all referred to by their internet handles such as H, Coyote and The Happy Horseman rather than their real names clearly happy to maintain anonymity in exchange for the real insight their interviews provide. This anonymity is also extended to Pinyan who throughout the film is only referred to as “Mr. Hands” though the use of radio footage he does tease revealing his identity only to cut it off at the last second. Still how this anonymity currents holds up is doubtful now, especially when a quick wikipedia search can bring up the details of everyone involved, but back then it did mean that we get the best possible insight into this secretive world.

By using only interview footage to narrate the film, Devor avoids sharing his own opinions when it comes to how he views the actions of the group, nor their less than conventional sexual tastes, the group surprisingly not being portrayed as weirdos for their sexual desires towards animals and instead the result of finding more of a connection with animals than they find with fellow humans. This is certainly the case with Pinyan whose Devor takes great pains to include footage which highlights his normal white collar lifestyle as an aeronautical engineer and devoted father with his trips to the farm clearly being like many of the group a separate part of their lives which they revealed only to their fellow group members. Its also perhaps unintentionally twee looking at the film now to hear the group talking about the internet, more so when the films soundtrack is often punctuated with the sound of dial up modems, but it does serve to remind how the internet really did help everyone to find their tribe as was certainly the case for the group at the centre of the incident.

The second half of the film focuses on the ill fated events surrounding Pinyan’s death and the inevitable fallout that unsurprisingly came from the discover of what the group had been doing including what happened to the members in the aftermath. Devor surprisingly never judges any of them for their less than traditional desires though the events which lead to Pinyan’s death are left largely foggy, thanks in no part to the unique way that he chooses to portray those ill-fated events.

Its also during this second half that the question over whether these acts can be considered abuse or not, especially when the animals are unable to provide consent to being involved in such acts and to Devor’s credit he manages to provide both sides of the argument though its doubtful that you mind will be changed by the evidence provided it and certainly the opinion of the government on the subject is made clear by their classification of bestiality as a felony offence.

Despite the subject material the film is fascinatingly shot and with none of the lurid shots that you might have expected, especially with Devor punctuating the re-enactment with numerous shots of the breathtaking landscape of Enumclaw and its rocky vistas. The footage throughout only being added to by a mesmerising score from Paul Mathew Moore which only serves to heighten the experience drawing you further into the story as it builds to its grim climax.

A facinating documentary on a less than typical subject and which well elevates itself being a shock piece to instead perhaps go some way into providing some kind of insight into this world.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The Nines



Title: The Nines
Director: John August
Released: 2007
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy, Hope Davis, Elle Fanning, David Denman, Octavia Spencer, Ben Falcone, Dahlia Salem, John Gatins

Plot: A troubled actor, a show runner and a videogame designer discover that their lives might be more linked than they suspect.

Review: While John August might not be a name which leaps out at you he has worked on several noteworthy screenplays for the likes of “Titan A.E.”, “Frankenweenie” and the cult indie movie “Go” which initially launched him as a screenwriter with this film marking his directorial debut with decidedly mixed results.

A three part existential drama  this pet project clearly has the feel of someone trying to imitiate the experimental style of Charlie Kaufman only with none of the quirky charm as here Ryan Reynolds plays the three lead roles each heading up their own chapters starting with “The Prisoner” which see actor Gary barbequing his ex-girlfriends things before flipping his car and landing himself on house arrest. Soon however he finds himself being being plagued by the continual appearance of the number 9 around him.

Next up is “Reality Television” which now sees Reynolds playing the Television writer Gavin who is trying to get the pilot for his TV show “Knowing” off the ground while being followed for a reality show. The whole segment being shot in reality TV show style making for an interesting change of pace and helping the segment to stand out along with elements such as Melissa McCarthy’s role in this segment being to play the fictionalised version of herself. This segment perhaps the most autobiographical for August who based most of the plot on his experience’s working on the failed television series “D.C.” while he wrote the film with McCarthy in mind for her role, mirroring Gavin’s own writing were he wrote his TV show for this reality’s version of her.

The final segment is “Knowing” were Reynolds now plays the acclaimed video game designer Gabriel whose car has broken down in the middle of nowhere with his wife Mary (McCarthy) and daughter which aims for the big reveal of what has supposed to have been happening throughout the film and bring all the parts together. Instead we get the feeling of August self congratulating himself for what he’s created even though its still very much feels like a half baked and largely confusing mess.

Released before Reynolds achieved the mainstream approval he got from “Deadpool” and when many critics for some reason were keen to write him off like Ben Affleck as box office poison a tag I never really understood for either, especially Reynolds who might have come to the forefront through throw away cult comedies like “Van Wilder” and “Waiting” he’s constantly remained an intresting actor to watch especially when given a more dramatic role like he got with “Adventureland” or “Smokin Aces” and here he certainly gets that by getting to play three different leads all three of which he manages to make stand out from each other. This is certainly true in the case of “The Prisoner” and “Reality TV” two characters which are at polar opposite to each other with Gary coming across as bratty and self indulgent compared to the self-doubting and moody Gavin its just more frustrating that neither character ultimately get the interesting arc’s that they deserve and instead are left in meandering plotlines blogged down by August’s attempts to link all the segments together and play into his end game.

The supporting cast are equally great with both Melissa McCarthy and Hope Davis joining Reynolds in playing multiple characters across the different stories with mixed results due to the strength of the material rather than either actresses performance.

While I might have entered into the film with an expectation of what I was going to get it was somewhat disapointing to ultimately end up with a plot so plodding and ultimately navel gazing as the one that August chooses to craft here, as a potentially interesting idea is squandered by his attempts to really tie together three half baked stories that perhaps would have been better developed on their own than stuck together here.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Mist




Title: The Mist
Director: Frank Darabont
Released: 2007
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Jeffrey DeMunn, Frances Sternhagen, Samuel Witwer, Alexa Davalos, Nathan Gamble

Plot: When a strange mist descends on the small Maine town of Bridgeton, the local residents soon discover that it hides an assortment of horrifying monsters. Now barricaded with his young son and several of the town residents in the local supermarket David (Jane) soon finds himself having to deal with the prospect of worst things amongst his fellow residents.



Review: The forth Stephen King adaptation for director Frank Darabont following his debut “The Woman In The Room” before following it up with “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile” and with this film he continues he showcase his flair for adapting King’s stories while somehow managing to avoid the issues which have plagued the Mick Garris adaptations.

On the surface this might just seem like another straightforward monster movie which it certainly more than delivers on throughout, but the real interesting aspect for the film is instead the study of human behaviour which runs below the surface as the residents in the town begin to choose different ways to process the situation they find themselves in. The first time I saw the film when I certainly enjoyed it, it didn’t seem to resonate in the same way that it did for friends who raved about the film and in particular that ending. Still re-watching it this time watching how the residents fracture into the two rival groups actually proved to be surprisingly more interesting than what’s lurking in the mist and really were the real story can be found.

One of the key aspects for the story working though is with the religious zelot Mrs. Carmody (Harden) viewing the fog as a sign that the end of days is upon the town quickly gathering a following behind her firebrand sermons. Darabont here really does a fantastic job of making her more than just a religious nutjob, instead having her follower numbers growing as a result of the situation becoming the more dire and the town residents not being able to logically comprehend what they are facing. To her credit Marcia Gay Harden plays the role pitch perfect managing to go from background annoyance to cult leader with very natural evolution even if perhaps a little more quickly than seems plausible.

This however is a minor quibble and one easily overlooked when given such an interesting and extensive group of characters who despite being so numerous all feel fully developed and not just monster fodder. Darabont’s casting choices gathering together many fantastic character actors only to pull out surprising sides such as Toby Jones assistant supermarket manager being a crackshot with a pistol, or William Sadler’s typically belligerent mechanic’s mind snapping after a failed supply run to the nearby pharmacy store. Throw into the mix a military conspiracy which the soldiers in the store might know more about than they are letting on and its a real tinderbox.

David however as the lead really is what makes this story work aswell as providing the best counterpart to Mrs. Carmody as he attempts to keep order in the group as he’s forced into taking a leadership role when all he wants to do is insure the safety of his young son and get back to his wife who is still back at the family home. Thomas Jane though truly sells this every man character thrust into this extraordinary situation subtly fleshed out by the smaller details of the story such as his attempts to make up with his stubborn neighbour Brent (Braugher). Here these two clashing forcing being less about Stephen King’s usual battle about the forces of good and evil and instead more a battle between logic and religion.

While the breakdown of social norms combined with this “Lord of the Flies” style situation which we watch unfold might certainly be one of the key aspects of the film, it is not to say that the monster element is not without its charms as Darabont introduces throughout the film a wide variety of monsters that come with this fog, from over grown insects to his larger creations which he manages to make either creatures of pure horror as in the case of the centipede like tentacles yet at the same time he is able to make us look at some of these creatures with a kind of awe when we get scenes of the long limbed goliath during the finale montage.

Unquestionably with extensive use of CGI for his monster creations, the fog helps keep an air of mystery to these creations, certainly as the effects have dated over the year which have surprisingly held up well with perhaps the tentacles being one of the rare moments when the effects taken you out of things slightly. At the same time Darabont really knows how to use these characters, especially when it comes to the more gory elements of the film in which he frequently manages to catch us off guard thanks to its sporadic placement and usually when he clearly feels that the audience might be getting too comfortable with what’s happening much like the hysteria being whipped up by Mrs. Carmody.

Of course it would be impossible to talk about this film without talking about the much discussed finale which honestly I still don’t feel that it earned. True it is certainly a surprising not to mention bleak ending and one which I certainly didn’t see coming the first time I watched the film. Still it was one of the key conditions of Darabont making the film with “Dimension” and it turned out from the general response to the right one with Stephen King even giving his approval. However looking at the alternative endings such as the vision of a world of mist which stayed more true to King’s original more ambiguous ending I can’t help but feel that its the ending I would have been happier with.

Unquestionably this is one of the more fresher horror films of the decade, especially when the horror genre seems so focused to keep bashing the same tired tropes to death, its always great to get a film which is actually trying to do something new.
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