The Mist (2007)

NOVEMBER 7, 2007

GENRE: MONSTER
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (PRESS SCREENING)

What the hell has happened to the world of horror? For years, there was two things you could always depend on: Dimension mucking up what could have been a good film, and good Stephen King short stories becoming pretty bad movies. But now, twice this year, a King short tale has been turned into a film courtesy of Dimension, and not only are they good, but among the best of the year. The Mist is the 2nd (after the thoroughly enjoyable 1408), and it may very well be the best wide release horror film of the year (and hell, the best limited release, Inside, is being released on DVD on Dimension Extreme! Up is down, down is up; dogs and cats, living together...)

The film begins with one of the best things I have seen onscreen in years: Tom Jane, playing a poster artist, putting the finishing touches on what is quite obviously a Dark Tower movie poster. I love the DT series more than just about anything in the world of the written word, so this literally sent shivers up my spine, even though it’s sadly quite fictional (for now, anyway) and just meant to be a little joke. NOT FUNNY, DARABONT!

I was a bit curious what changes Frank Darabont would make to the source material, if any. While Shawshank Redemption (one of the finest films ever made) stuck pretty close, at least on a storytelling level (the novella wasn’t as uplifting), The Green Mile, good as it was, was almost mechanically faithful to the source material, to the point where the film seemed a bit cold (of course, that’s the one that made the most money). So I was happy to discover that while he once again stayed faithful, he actually improved on the short story in several ways. Side characters are given more to do, the trip to the pharmacy (something that takes less than 5 pages in the 120+ page “short” story) is now a major setpiece, and, most significantly, there is now an ending. I won’t spoil it, but it should be pretty interesting to see how people react to it. I loved it, and it gave the film a bittersweet moral that the short story lacked. Hopefully the majority will see it my way (then again, I wish that for everything. God, why do you people continue to hate The Hitcher remake?!?!?). Also, the Mist’s “backstory”, only hinted at in the novel, is a bit more defined here, though it’s still barely a factor. Much like Lost is about the people, not a magic island; the mist isn’t the driving force behind the film, and so spending precious screen time explaining it (or worse, trying to “stop” it) would be pointless.

The only real OMISSION to the story was a brief, sort of nonsensical sex scene between the main character and one of the women he meets at the supermarket. It was a pretty dumb segment of the book, and Darabont was wise to remove it. Not only does it make the hero (played by Tom Jane here, faring far better in King territory than he did in Dreamcatcher) less of a dick, it also keeps the film’s pace in check, instead of stopping cold to have some guy you’re supposed to like leave his kid for a while to cheat on his wife in the manager’s office of a supermarket under siege by prehistoric spiders (holy SHIT there are a lot of prepositional phrases there).

On a technical level the film is impressive as well. Darabont carried over the crew from The Shield (he directed an episode a year or so ago), and gives the film the same sort of documentary/real feel that that show has. Not everything is in perfect focus, the camera zooms and whips around in long takes rather than carefully staged multiple angles, etc. It heightens the tension, obviously, but it also works in another way – helping to sell the effects. When things feel more real (i.e. less like a big budget movie), a giant tentacle slithering under a door will make for a far more effective scare.

As expected, Darabont gets all his actors’ A games (though Jane gets a bit over the top in his final scenes), and it’s nice to see all his regulars (Bill Sadler, Jeffrey DeMunn, Brian Libby) together again. Marcia Gay Harden (is it wrong I think she, a 50 year old classy lady, is pretty damn hot?) manages to make a truly wretched character (a Christian fanatic) compelling and even somewhat sympathetic, no small task. Andre Braugher is also good (playing Norton, who was a pudgy white guy in the book – providing another similarity to 1408), no surprise there. And Jane is one of the more interesting actors in his age bracket, so it’s always a plus when he toplines a film that has a script worthy of his talent (he usually seems to be one of those guys who get smaller roles in great films and bigger roles in crap films – see Boogie Nights and The Punisher, respectively, for examples). Hell, even the little kid is good.

I should also point out the music. There isn’t any. At least, not until the end (that I noticed anyway – if there was any before then it was quick and as unobtrusive as any score has ever been). When seen out of context, certain scenes may feel lacking due to this choice, but the film as a whole benefits greatly from it (though the score is a bit overbearing when it is finally used). Then again, when the acting and filmmaking are this spot on, a score that tells you how to feel or what kind of scene it is isn’t necessary.

Jesus Christ, I IMPLORE you; do not let this one tank at the box office. It takes real talent and effort to make a smart, thought provoking film out of what is essentially a giant monster movie, and it would literally pain me to see it trampled on by the likes of Fred Claus or whatever the fuck. Darabont easily proves that the story doesn’t have to be set in a prison in order to make a truly wonderful Stephen King adaptation, and you should reward him for his hard work. He’s one of our best filmmakers, but the failure of The Majestic meant we had to wait 6 years for him to get back behind the camera (not to mention getting burned by Lucas on Indy 4 - Indy's loss is our gain I guess). I don’t want to wait that long again. Nor do I want to have to wait till DVD to talk about the ending of the film and what it meant to me. If 1408 can pull in 80 million in the middle of summer, there is no reason in the world why this one can’t surpass 100 when there’s almost zero genre competition. You don’t want to see the year’s best horror film on DVD (or worse, a bootleg – fucking scum).

November 21st. Be there.

What say you?

29 comments:

  1. Sir...

    Interesting review, but we DEFINITELY butt heads on the whole 'new ending is better' bit...especially since you seem to think the original story 'didn't have one'...

    In all honesty, Im NOT posting to get into a flame thing here,but I already know what this new ending is and I HATE it.

    Its pointless, mean, and ruins the tone of the story...the original version gave a little hope that the characters may find a haven...this new one is just a cheap 'shock' deal that completely thrashes and destroys the story up to that point...I cant STAND it, as 'The Mist' is my all time fave story EVER, due largely to the uplifting ending.

    I think its a shame that Darabont took what would have otherwise been a masterpiece adaption and tooled with the finale for a cheap horror shock.
    I expected more from him.
    K

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  2. well, i think you need to see the film for the ending to work... SPOILER OF SORTS:

    It essentially turns the tale into a moral, that people MUST have faith in SOMETHING in order to survive, be it God or each other. If the character in question had a little more faith, instead of feeling no one else would save him/her and his/her loved ones but themselves, the ending wouldn't be as much a 'downer'.

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  3. One of the joys of the colder months here, I have no excuse not to go to the threaters. I'll be seeing this one.

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  4. Nice review. I'm looking forward to seeing the film. It's good that that sex scene was removed, because I hated it! It was so infuriating (for me at least).

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  5. BC, this is great news. Thank you. Can't wait to see this film. Also, just saw 1408 on DVD and thought John Cusack was awesome.

    A

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  6. Well I wasn't particularly interested in seeing this one, it looks like another "The Fog" type movie and I haven't seen one of those that does blow. I was once a rapid Stephen King fan, but I don't read his books anymore, they all seem me to have same type of thread, and then it seems he finally gets tired of writing and puts in some stupid ending just to end it all. I don't think having a moral ending is such a surprise, he has done that with a lot of his books, like the Stand and the Cell. Frankly I've been watching the trailer for weeks and I thought it was a made for TV movie. Personally I don't think King's books have made particularly good movies, except maybe The Shining and Cujo. I'll wait for the DVD. If you thought 1408 was good, I can't trust your judgement on this one.

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  7. I can not wait to see this movie and if it sucks I'm going to be so mad at you Brian!

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  8. This film is a slice of greatness. Darabont wrote what could be considered the monster movie for the 80's (the remake of THE BLOB) and now has crafted the monster movie for the new century. Love it or hate it, you can't deny how accomplished it is, how deep it digs...and how devastating it can be. Get ready to be challenged, but also...get ready to be scared. Remember when that happened in horror movies?

    BTW...the ending is PERFECT. I'm all for open-ended climaxes, but Darabont found a way to make an ending that feels like if the novella went on 2 more pages...I know many will hate it, but I loved it. Nothing cheap about the human factor.

    For someone who has loved this story 21 years and been dying to see it fully realised (the audio performance is one of the most terrifying experiences I've had in my youth and thought would be hard to top), Darabont and co. have done the book justice and given us one of the first in what could be the next wave in post modern-monster movies (alongside THE HOST and hopefully CLOVERFIELD/1.18.08 or whatever).

    I hope you all like it as much as I (and clearly Brian) did....to me this was one of the very best of the year, and one of the most accomoplished films of the last 7.

    Beware THE MIST...

    Joe

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  9. I'm very psyched to catch this one. King + Darabont = Cinematic goodness!

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  10. looks like a stupid movie seems like a knock off of the fog to me...

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  11. The original story was published around the same time as The (real) Fog was made...

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  12. Actually, Skeleton Crew was published in 1985 and the original(real) The Fog came out in 1980.

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  13. Yes, but King first published it in an anthology called Dark Forces, in 1980, before including it in Skeleton Crew (in fact, a lot of the stories in his collections were published previously).

    And besides, other than the fact that the two movies involve something inside a weather pattern, the two couldn't be more dissimilar.

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  14. I just saw tonight at an advance screening in DC. I thought the ending was brilliant and I am amazed it exists given the studios.

    Production wise, I wish the film had looked better. It was like a flat, cheesy 70s TV show much of the time. I enjoyed the quietness of the film and most of the performances. Harden was amazing (she's not 50 btw!). The monsters felt derivative, but really the ending of the thing saved this movie for me.

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  15. Hahaha she's 48! Still old enough to be my mom. And I bet she's still hot when she's legit 50!!! :)

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  16. Loved the review, loved the movie! Keep up the good work my friend!

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  17. Just saw it. Liked it a lot, for the most part. My high expectations were lowered right away, because I thought the first few scenes were not very well done. They really cheaped out on "the storm", and some of the dialogue in the first half hour or so is terrible and terribly delivered.

    Once it kicks into gear though, it's terrific. So nice and deadly serious. So bleak. I thought Mrs Carmody was quite over the top at times, and I don't agree with you on her being sympathetic at all (note, and SPOILER WARNING: there was a fair amount cheering in the theatre when she was finally killed), but she was a good villain.

    The ending, I liked it... But I liked it more in theory and on paper than in execution. To say that Tom Jane is a little over the top is a big understatement as his actions...after the act...were almost comical (though, to me, not QUITE comical, but there WERE people who laughed during it).

    I appreciate that Darabont had the balls to end it the way he did though. It was the biggest downer of an ending I can remember seeing in a movie. Quite the gut-punch.

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  18. "There was" two things you could rely on? My God, man, you're a journalist. Plural nouns (two things) get plural verbs--there were.

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  19. I'm a journalist? Whoa. Maybe I should stop making up words like asschristing and synopsii and Wiscnonsense while I'm at it.

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  20. Ok, so FINALLY I saw the movie, Spoiler Alert!!!

    I wished the whole world in chaos were a little bit more shown, since we actually didn't see more creatures after the heroes escape, except that humongous thing (which was real great)the acting was good,I Totally hated the priestesses (I know thatwas the whole point..but)The Creatures were very cool (Get to the dark tower already!!!)sort of a foreshadowing to the "Buick 8" project,huh? and the ending...well, it was an ending, take or leave it, I liked better the original one and I swear that I guessed the last scenes as soon as I saw the bullets in Jane's hand, what shock me was seeing the lady from the beginning again,HOW COULD SHE SURVIVE? and with the kids to boot? that was kinda unbelievable since another guy was killed minutes before she went out the store!!!
    It still is a great movie, ever since his short film "Woman in A Room" Darabont has made great movies out Stephen King stories, far better than other director, I guess that's why this time went ahead and brought us HIS ending of the story, but rest assure that we'll see the original ending on the special features of the dvd, or in a couple of years when the greedy Studios release the "never before seen in theaters" version, Don't believe me? ask "1408", another great adaption of a Stephen King story.

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  21. The ending sucks. The "must have faith" interpretation makes no sense. The Harden character has lots of faith, but she dies. The mom who leaves the store to go for her kids (and is seen alive in the army truck at the end) has no faith, just maternal instinct that leads her to do something that should have gotten her killed. Is the film saying that everyone in the supermarket would have survived if they had just ignored the warnings and danger and gone straight home? Some people seem to like this ending because they think it's "bold," but bold isn't necessarily "smart" or "good."

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  22. Not "faith". "Hope". The movie, same as 'Shawshank', is about the importance of Hope.

    Harden has faith, but no hope. Her faith tells her that she will die. So she dies.

    Braugher has no faith in humanity; his hope is blind and poorly reasoned, so he doesn't survive.

    Tom Jane (and co) have hope, until his wife is found dead, and they see the HUGE monster, and the car runs out of gas, and then they have no hope. And as soon as they give up hope, they're dead -- needlessly, as it turns out.

    If you want to criticize it for cynicism due to the fact that it's saying that all you can have is hope, as opposed to any actual power over your situation, fine. But don't pretend it's not intelligent or good just because you're not smart enough to figure it out.

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  23. It's not "intelligent or good" because it plays as cheap irony. The ending isn't earned, and reeks of pollyannism. I mean c'mon, all you need is hope? What is this, Across the Universe? The fact remains that the attitude Jane and his band of followers adopts is absolutely justified and vindicated up until that cheap ending. Jane promised his kid that he would not let the monsters kill him, and their situation appeared absolutely hopeless. It's cheap and smug, and if this "all you need is hope" interpretation is accurate... well, that doesn't sound like the same Darabont who wrote the ending to the Blob remake. This is just wishy-washy.

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  24. i will download this from piratebay in your honor!

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  25. A friend of mine had an interesting take on the ending.They didn't even get hungry yet but he offed the whole car.I like this ending better than the book though.

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  26. the most fucked up ending in movie history (or at least af all the films i've seen) but a great film! p.s. i have not read the book and don't care to, but i think the ending was what made the film for me!!!!!!!!! take that m.night shamayamamyaya or whatever!

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  27. I would have been fine with the ending, had it been earned. If they'd stayed in the car for a long time, holding out until the last possible minute, I can see the ending working. The untimeliness of suicide minutes after the car broke down is what got me.

    Also, a minor quibble, I found the description of the "huge thing" better in the book. Like, you couldn't see the top. It couldn't be fathomed. I could be a giant living, walking island-sized thing. Instead I got an "oh, it's just an organic AT-AT" vibe.

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  28. Just watched it. The ending? I saw it coming there, but wow. It pretty much blew me away *anyway*. I mean, it just figures right? You've completely given up. All hope is lost. You do all the right moves. You go down with the ship. And then you see the rescue boat. I believe modern film/tv/phrasing has captured this concept in that catch all phrase: "Really? REALLY?!" Sick. Really sick.

    I loved the set-up, the study of characters and self-preservation and shit, humanity! Philosophical studies about the nature of man-totally appropriate. Totally fantastic. It's that kind of stuff that made me keep reading The Stand.

    I was on the edge of my seat. I wanted to kill Marcia Gay Harden (and I *like* her). I was glad when Ollie did it. Go Team! And yes. Tom Jane was excellent.

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