Critically acclaimed writer and director Frank Darabont (“The Majestic”) has proven himself quite adept when it comes to crafting hit feature films based upon some of author Stephen King’s best-selling novels. His previous attempts, “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile”, resulted in great critical and commercial responses upon being released to theaters, and have found a special place in the hearts and minds of many movie fans along with becoming valued parts of many movie collections. So, when Darabont chose his next film to be based upon the novella “The Mist”, yet again written by horror-master Stephen King, expectations were understandably high in regards to his undeniable talent for crafting such excellent films based on novels, a task not easily accomplished by even the most gifted of writers or directors. The downside to being as successful as Frank Darabont has been in his previous adaptations is that, eventually he’s bound to make one that doesn’t quite resonate as strongly with his audience. Well, it seems that that moment has finally arrived with the release of the box office disappointment, “The Mist”, starring Thomas Jane (“The Punisher”) and Marcia Gay Harden (“Mystic River”).
“The Mist” is the story of a small New England town, that one seemingly normal day becomes immersed in this mysterious mist that appeared out of nowhere. At first the local townspeople believed the mist to be nothing out of the ordinary, that is, until one of their neighbors comes storming into the local supermarket scared to death and bleeding profusely from wounds he claimed occurred via creatures hidden within the mist. Now, these ordinary, everyday people must try to stand together to fight a series of extraordinary enemies, while trying to maintain their own sanity and keep their fears from tearing them apart.
I have enjoyed Frank Darabont’s previous adaptations of Stephen King novels, I found the prison drama “The Shawshank Redemption” to be a very solid drama, with incredible acting and storytelling on display; although I don’t consider it to be one of the greatest films ever made as some might. Darabont’s next effort was the death row drama “The Green Mile”, which to me, was the more superior film of the two Stephen King adaptations that he had made thus far. So, like many moviegoers I believed that his next attempt “The Mist” would be just as good, if not better, than the previous two; however, I was wrong.
“The Mist” is, for the most part, an entertaining drama with some horror mixed in from time-to-time. The story is well-paced, featuring plenty of strong character development, and very sharp, well-written dialogue, which is not surprising given Frank Darabont’s acclaimed skills as a screenwriter. Where the movie goes wrong, for me at least, is in the final 30 minutes or so of the film. When the people trapped in the supermarket begin to pick sides, it seems realistic to the point that in most cases any human being is going to try to find like-minded individuals in desperate times, such as those depicted in this film; however, I find it somewhat unbelievable that after only being trapped in the supermarket for a mere two days the people would snap so easily with common sense and rationale to the point they were willing to kill over their differences rather than finding a way to survive. Also, the final closing moments of the film were a little too disturbing for me, and essentially removed any sense of entertainment I had been feeling towards this movie, thus causing me to dislike this movie a great deal. I understand that the ending was probably realistic under such dire circumstances, although I would think had I been in those characters’ shoes, I wouldn’t have made such a rash, and as it turned out, rather unfortunate decision until it was clear that there was no hope left, and even then I’m not sure I would have gone with it. Some of you readers out there may disagree with me on that, and that’s fine, but I would think you’d have to admit that their reasoning for taking the actions they took seemed a little impulsive, especially when the strange noise they heard wasn’t like all the previous ones, which they previously had no problem waiting to discover just what was making the noise, so the fact that they gave such a knee-jerk reaction seemed out of character for each of them in the scene. I know I’m being quite vague about my dislikes for this film, but if you haven’t seen the movie, and are still planning on viewing it, I don’t want to ruin the specifics of what takes place in the closing moments.
The actors in “The Mist” were very talented group, each delivering very convincing, and believable performances given the strange circumstances occurring to the characters within the movie. Thomas Jane was a great choice to portray the loving father and impromptu leader of the trapped locals within the supermarket, as he created a very realistic character that was full of strong qualities mixed with a dose of arrogance that created a very palpable tension at times between him and some of his neighbors from the town. Marcia Gay Harden was surprisingly very convincing as the religious fanatic that feeds on the fears of her neighbors, seizing an opportunity to convert them to her beliefs of God, and isn’t remotely bothered by the means in which she gains followers. The rest of the cast was comprised of various character actors, which I personally don’t know the names of though I recognize them from other movies I’ve seen them in. Each of them did a wonderful job in bringing realism and a mostly neighborly quality to their characters. The downer to having such a solid cast in this movie is that when the craziness begins to set in around the halfway point in the film, some of the actors didn’t really sell the change as convincingly as others and it really stood out in places, and was a bit of an annoyance for me.
One aspect of “The Mist” that surprised me the most was the excellent CGI work done to create the monsters. Now, I wasn’t surprised that the CGI was so well-crafted, I mean in this day of modern cinema there’s just no excuse for bad CGI, but for me I didn’t expect there to be all that much, if any, CGI to be used in the film. I wasn’t aware that there were going to be monsters hidden in the mist, so that was a very welcome and enjoyable surprise. And kudos to the special effects department for creating such creepy, even somewhat disturbing, versions of our various insects and bugs; such as, spiders, flies, mosquitoes, and so on. I thought by including monsters with the mysterious mist (which may have been in the novella, I wouldn’t know because I haven’t read it) was a good way to separate this movie from “The Fog” which was a movie about another small town being plagued by a mysterious fog that brought death and despair to the townspeople.
“The Mist” was an entertaining drama/monster film for the first 90 minutes, but the last thirty minutes of the movie really brought the entire experience down for me. It’s sad to have a movie that is so well-written, directed, and acted, be felled by somewhat unbelievable, and in some cases disturbing, plot twists to the point that I was glad when the credits rolled so I could soon begin erasing this movie from my mind. Some people will probably still enjoy “The Mist” regardless of the problems that plague the latter portion of the movie, but for me I’d rather watch the much better Stephen King adaptations from Frank Darabont, and put this one out of sight, and out of mind.
“The Mist” is rated R for violence and language.