Stephen King's writings are having one heck of a year at the movies. First there was the well done 1408 and now, thanks to Frank Darabont who can always be counted on to bring worthy adaptations of King's work to screen having previously done The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, we can add The Mist to the list of stellar movies based on the prolific writers output.
What makes matter even better, in my eyes, is that the movie is based on what has to be one of my favourite King short stories (it always seems his stories translate better to the screen for some reason) taken from his 1985 collection, "Skeleton Crew". The story held a simple premise, one that we've seen in many a past horror tale, but piled on enough great characterizations and thrills to make it work. It's something that Darabont manages to bring to the screen perfectly as well and it made me smile and, upon returning from the theatre, promptly pick-up the book to re-read the story yet again.
Thomas Jane plays David Drayton, an artist who is hired by various companies to paint movie posters (got to love the fact that at the outset of the movie he's painting a "Gunslinger" poster and that there's a painting for John Carpenter's The Thing hanging on the wall). He's living a quiet life along the coast with his wife and young son. But all that is about to change when a huge storm rolls in damaging massive amounts of property as well as bathing the area in a thick fog.
Deciding to go into town to see how everyone else fared and to pick up supplies, David agrees to take his lawyer neighbour Brent (Andre Braugher) with him as well as bringing along his son, who is still in awe of their boathouse being crushed by a huge tree from Brent's yard.
Stopping in at the local supermarket everything seems to be normal until one of the townsfolk storms into the place bleeding and warning people that there's "something in the mist". Soon after the market is enveloped in fog and, as it turns out, there's something inhuman dwelling in the thick, whiteness outside. David learns this firsthand when a stock boy is dragged away by a tentacled creature underneath the docking bay door.
From there David has to try and convince people that it's best they stay put, Brent tries to quash his ridiculous sounding story, local religious nut Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) mutters on about it being "God's work", and people start being picked-off whenever they attempt to escape. Seems that with the mist came a whole bunch of alien-looking insects that won't hesitate to tear you limb-from-limb.
While The Mist does contain some thrilling, occasionally gory, moments where our insect moths and spiders attack people (the scene with David and a select few heading next door to the pharmacy and meeting up with some spiders is particularly great), Darabont also brings an intelligent slant to the table as he works on developing the human cast and giving them various moments of desperation and outright savagery. He's basically painting a picture of pure anarchy and telling us that when thrown into a bleak situation where the psyche is pushed to its limit, it's possible for what's inside the market to be much more dangerous than what is outside.
It's this smartly written slant that makes the movie stand out amongst all the overly violent, and sometimes needlessly gruesome, fare modern horror tends to crank out. There's some intense stuff here but it bumps up against wholly believable characters. There's more going on beneath the surface here than just a regular "creature feature". Darabont also sticks to his guns by giving us one of the more depressing endings around, which expands on the story's finish and works great.
The special effects on display in The Mist are pretty well done with only the opening tentacle attack looking "too CGI", but it's really the script and acting that makes this one so compelling. Jane is solid as the "every man" hero, Toby Jones is perfect as the geeky market worker Ollie (who steps up in a time of need and has a hidden talent with firearms) and William Sadler gives another eccentric performance as none-too-smart handyman Jim. The movie, however, belong to Harden who makes her character so convincingly crazy and so hissably unlikeable that every scene she is in hums, it has to say something when the audience in the theatre I was in were making lewd comments to her character multiple times during the flick.
Proof positive that not only are King's earlier works superb, but also that they can be turned into excellent films, The Mist easily joins my short list as one of the years best horror films. See it before it goes, judging from the sparse audience when I saw it chances are it won't stick around too long. (Chris Hartley, 11/25/07 - DVD, 3/26/08)
Directed By: Frank Darabont.
Written By: Frank Darabont.
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher.
Dimension/Genius - March 25, 2008
Picture Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen.
Picture Quality: The transfer here is clean and pretty crisp and it also manages to handle the multiple scenes of creeping fog extremely well. This is a lower-budgeted Hollywood movie with a fair share of effects and muted colours and I have nothing at all to complain about how it looks on disc.
Extras: Dimension have really brought the goods for the 2-disc edition of The Mist. Considering the fact that I'm a huge fan of the movie and that writer-director Frank Darabont is one of the most likeable film geek/filmmakers around, this is an informative and entertaining release.
Disc one contains eight deleted scenes with optional commentary by Darabont (they're mostly dialogue moments he excised for pacing reasons), three of the "webisodes" from the official site that gives a backstage look at the production, three different trailers, a featurette on artist Drew Struzan who's created a lot of the classic movie posters of the last few decades (including The Thing, the Indiana Jones movies and more), and a commentary track by Darabont which feels like listening to a close friend tell stories about making a movie.
Disc two's main drawing card is the fact it presents the movie completely in black & white to give it a 50's monster movie feel. As Darabont says on his included introduction, this really is a movie that could play well either way and it is cool to see how it compares (the mist and creatues retain even more creepiness in this version). There's also a highly enjoyable thirty-seven-minute "making of" featurette, the "Taming The Beast: Filming Scene 35" featurette that focuses on the film's supermarket attack moment, and two featurettes focusing on the creature and visual effects.
Also included in the package is a booklet with messages from Darabont and Stephen King with the awesome teaser poster art created by Struzen. It's just another added bonus to a package that, at this moment, stands as one of the best horror DVD releases of 2008.