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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