A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Mist

July 8, 2011

The Mist

This was one of those “what on Earth was I thinking” purchases I made while working at Blockbuster. I really had no intention of buying this movie. I’m not a fan of horror films, really. It’s never been my preferred genre. I enjoy the stories of Stephern King, but movies based on them are hit and miss. Of course this movie is from Frank Darabont, the director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, who has made a career out of doing spectacular adaptations of Stephen King. At the time that I bought this, though, I didn’t know that. I had read the story many years ago and it didn’t particularly make me want to watch a movie based on it. You know what finally made me decide to buy it (after being exposed to the preview for a couple months?) It was the tentacles. There was a shot in the preview that had Cthuloid tentacles descending from the clouds, and because I’m not quite right in the head this image made me want to own the entire movie. But I didn’t watch it until today.

I have to admit that I’m glad Darabont keeps going back to Stephen King, because he’s clearly got a knack for King’s work. King is all about putting regular people in dire circumstances and letting them be human. In this particular case the dire circumstances involve people trapped in a grocery store when an unnatural mist rolls down out of the mountains above Castle Rock after a thunder storm. Professional painter David Drayton goes to the store to stock up on supplies after the storm with his son and his litigious neighbour but while they’re there the mist rolls in. At first, of course, it looks like it’s just a strange weather pattern, but soon it becomes clear that there are “things” in the mist. Things that will grab people and tear them apart.

The film, like the story it’s based on, is more about the psychological tension of people trapped in close quarters with each other while something horrific is going on. At first there are skeptics, like David’s neighbour, who refuse to believe that there’s anything supernatural going on. They don’t last long. Then there is the crazy religious fanatic Mrs. Carmody who believes that the mist is the realization of the book of Revelations and that the beasts in it are God’s just vengeance for the hubris of humankind. Almost worse than the creatures outside are the evils brought forth in the simple humans trapped in the store. In some people the crisis brings out the best, such as with bag-boy Ollie Weeks who repeatedly proves himself to be an unexpected hero and our protagonist David who is the voice of reason and finds himself taking command when nobody else will. Many other people, however, become spiteful, frightened, useless or dangerous.

What I found myself especially enjoying about the movie was the deft way that Darabont built the tension and maintained it. The real terror in this movie comes mostly from the fact that we almost never see the beasts in the mist unobscured. They are terrifying nightmare fodder that capture and consume anyone foolhardy enough to venture outside, but we mostly see the results of their actions rather than the creatures themselves. This makes it all the more dreadful when eventually a small group do have to venture outside in search of medicine and possibly survivors at the pharmacy next door. We get to see some of the smaller beasts – giant flying scorpion bugs and four-winged lizard predators as well as terrifying spider things that spit acidic webs – but the most deadly things are just shapes in the fog, ill defined and all the more frightening because of it.

Once you’re done watching the movie you realize that everything is build up to the inevitable conclusion. Every dreadful night-time encounter or spate of in-fighting among the survivors is a part of a larger picture that’s being painted. I have to say that I think I’ve seen this ending done before in other horror films. I haven’t seen it done so well. Darabont spends the whole film creating a state of mind – an overwhelming sense of dread – so that he can sell the events of the conclusion, and he does it perfectly.

There is much that I enjoyed about this movie. I loved the creature design and the effects work. The things in the mist are fantastic nightmare fodder and the glimpses you get of them, particularly near the conclusion, make it clear that they are highly developed, almost majestic killing machines. The acting throughout the movie is superb. After the dreadful Punnisher movie he did I didn’t have high hopes for Thomas Jane as our protagonist David. As Mrs. Carmody Marcia Gay Hardon is almost as horrifying as the creatures outside – she completely sells this woman who has felt under appreciated and put upon for her entire life but who now sees these horrific events as her vindication. Every one of the characters presented is well fleshed out with understandable motivations for their actions, so even the people who are the most despicable are still terrifyingly human.

Again: I am not a fan of horror movies in general. I don’t necessarily think it’s a fun time to be terrified. This movie, though, has instantly leaped to near the top of my list of favorite horror films. I don’t know if it does anything original with the common tropes of people trapped during an apocalyptic event (which I associate mostly with zombie movies) but it does everything so very well that I don’t mind that I feel like I’ve seem most of this before. Indeed as bleak and unsettling as the movie is there are parts of it that I kind of want to watch again. It must be that same thing in me that loves seeing the aliens winning in the new War of the Worlds remake: I have a soft spot for supernatural Armageddon tales.

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July 8, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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