Title: The Mist
Director(s): Frank Darabont
Screenwriter(s): Frank Darabont
Studio: Darkwoods Productions Released: 2007
Runtime: 2h 6m
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Toby Jones, Andre Braugher, William Sadler
Based on Stephen King’s novella of the same name, The Mist can be considered a psychological horror film. The story itself is mildly interesting but the film is nonetheless well-executed.
I make a few comments about this film partly because it’s not a bad film and partly because of the recent events such as the train derailment and chemical spill. Also, what is mentioned here may be considered to be mild spoilers by some and I have not read the novella.
David Drayton (Jane) is a painter who lives in Bridgton, Maine, with his wife, Stephanie, and his 8-year-old son, Billy. After a storm the previous night that has damaged homes and knocked out power, they notice thick white mist across the lake whilst checking out the damage. Although somewhat strange, they don’t think too much of it and David and Billy go to the local supermarket to get some supplies.
Many others from town are at the supermarket too and that is when the air-raid siren sounds and a panicking local runs in, warning about “something in the mist” that took someone. He advises shutting the doors, which they do as the mist envelopes the store. The story follows David as he tries to deal with the situation. The dilemma he and other characters face is whether to take their chances by leaving the supermarket or by staying.
Given the apparent volume of the mist, the characters almost immediately suspect the cause to be some chemical spill. The other obvious possibility, given that the town is home to a military base, is the military’s so-called Arrowhead Project, not that anyone knows what the nature of the project is. The film does offer a superficial explanation.
Given the ubiquitous or pervasive nature of the mist and at least one tentacled creature that could be an allusion to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu or to the Greek Hydra, it almost seems like an allegory or symbol of not only the evil forces that try to rule the world but also their means. Also, although “Arrowhead” is a cool military codename to use in works of fiction, it incidentally does remind one of the “Arrow Cross”, which were basically Hungarian nazis.
These ideas were hardly new even at the time King wrote the novella in 1980 so it is perhaps a leap to think all this is some sort of predictive programming but one wonders…
As for plotting, most of the film is set inside the supermarket. Whilst it is static in that regard, and it is not intensely suspenseful or horrifying, there is enough conflict, tension and mystery to hold one’s attention.
Although a very different genre and premise, Phone Booth (2002) is similar in that regard as it does well in basically one location but with less action and fewer characters. The Mist takes advantage of having monsters and the fact that there are many stuck inside the supermarket. This includes Mrs Carmody (Harden), a fanatical pseudo-Christian who practically wants to start her own sect in the store. One has to wonder whether this is King’s cheap stab at religion by deliberately using a very bad example.
In any case, given that the threat of the mist is deliberately mysterious, the plot needs a more concrete threat to keep the film grounded and Harden does a wonderful job playing the antagonistic Mrs Carmody. She is amusing, even comical, and scary at the same time. Harden’s performance is more impressive when one considers that her intensity increases as the plot progresses; she is clearly antagonistic when first introduced, but Harden gradually ups the maliciousness.
Visually, the film generally looks good. The monsters are not great but that is expected given the relatively low budget, and it’s not so bad that it is a turn-off. More importantly, the cinematography and editing are very measured. The use of handheld (or something similar in effect) with tight shots are just enough to draw the viewer in and it is noticeable, but it is effective and never overdone. There can arguably be less grain effect but it works.
The score is minimal and given the nature of the premise, the lack of music, perhaps paradoxically to some, complements the low amount of loud action. In other words, it is a deliberately quiet film. It is not quite eerie but does help sustain the tension.
I personally think The Mist is not a great film but it is well-executed in most respects. It is not intensely horrifying but does hold one’s attention until the end. There can also be more of an explanation regarding the origins of the mist but it is not entirely dissatisfying. It is understandable that some think highly of this work.
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