Stephen King’s The Mist
Release Date: November 21, 2007
Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden
Runtime: 125 min
A small town in Maine has just been struck by a large lightning storm, and many of the townspeople are going to the local grocery store to stock up. Among these people are Mr. David Drayton (Thomas Jane), a small-time celebrity, and his son, Billy (Nathan Gamble). A mysterious mist falls over the town and local man Dan Miller (Jeffrey DeMunn) comes running in yelling “There’s something in the mist!” and that the mist took a local man. There is something lurking in the mist, but what is it? Extraterrestrial creatures? All the townsfolk know is that they’re incredibly dangerous, and if they make one wrong move, it could mean their life. The only key to survival is the occupants of the store coming together and fighting, but will human nature allow it?
The Mist is based on Stephen King’s novella of the same name, written for the screen and directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile). It’s a well-crafted creature feature that brings in brilliant elements of the power of human nature. This situation calls for the people of the store to come together to survive, and not launch at each other’s throats and get bad cases of cabin fever. This is a little hard with a crazy local loon, Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden).
Carmody is that crazy person you might see on a street corner saying “Oh Jesus loves ya! He will judge you on this day! Praise Jesus and what not!” You get the picture. I’m not saying that religion is bad, but this woman takes it to a whole new level interpreting the Bible too eerily, and apotheosizing with her imaginary crystal ball. She has read one too many religious books. Even when she may make you want to throw a can of peas at her, she’s an amazing and memorable character. Crazy, yes, but so necessary for the feature, and she is at times an equal threat to the people of the market than whatever’s in that mist. She’s at their throats in the day, and those things come at night. She is also superbly portrayed by Marcia Gay Harden.
The rest of the cast is pretty good. She is the real notable performer, both Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden and Jeffrey DeMunn are good in their roles, but the only other besides Harden worth mentioning is the great Toby Jones, who brings a lot of backbone to an assistant store manager, Ollie. At first glance you might think Ollie is a coward, but give him a gun and put him in this situation, the result is comparable to that of Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs. Though, Hoffman was only fighting against psychopaths, these guys are up against an extreme fundamentalist and monsters of all kinds.
The Mist is a good creature feature that is both taut and clever, slowly paced during the day, but fast-paced when whatever’s out there comes out to play. The characters are top-notch and you can really care for most of them, and the bravery of a select few is extremely admirable. The novella is a little better (as expected) because the reader uses their imagination for what may lie in the mist, and it is much scarier. Though, the creature effects are impressive. One reason it is worse than the novella is the ending that will divide audiences and critics alike.
Darabont takes a much darker route with his ending than King did with his own. Yes, it’s an admirable risk. Yes, it’s what makes the film stand out a little more. But, it just throws it off and messes up the general film. It makes the long film based on a 134-page novella unrewarding. It makes me hesitate to recommend this whole-heartedly, as if one ending could ruin an entire experience, it is this one. It is arguably the most talked about aspect of the feature, but it is no means the best. I still love Darabont with a lot of my might as he directed and wrote for the screen my favourite film, The Green Mile, and he did the same for the amazing The Shawshank Redemption. Darabont took a risk with this new, dark ending, and it did not pay off nearly as well as – say – Stanley Kubrick’s re-imagining of King’s The Shining. That might not be fair to compare the two, but it’s the best analogy that comes to mind.
The ending will divide audiences, some will hate it and some will like it for Darabont’s backbone to be different. I, myself, am unfortunately on the side of hating the ending that did greatly affect my general idea of the mostly solid creature feature. It’s a good film, yes, but it is a big part of what stops it from being great for me. It is also the reason why I hesitate to whole-heartedly recommend this. So, because of that I say: Watch it if you want, but if you like to read, just stick with King’s original 134-page novella.