April 4, 2008

Frank Darabont’s third adaptation of a Stephen King story, this time the novella The Mist, is an often very gory horror film done in a fairly straightforward, pseudo-documentary style, with a minimum of music. The story revolves around a deadly mist that descends on a New England town, trapping some citizens in a supermarket. When mysterious creatures in the mist start killing them off, they have to decide whether or not to stick it out in the supermarket, or go for help. Darabont’s borderline minimalist approach ratchets up a lot of the tension and suspense, two qualities largely absent from too many modern horror films, and for the most part, The Mist is a very good, if not great, horror movie. His original plan to release it in black and white (that version is available on the two disc version of the DVD release) was scuttled by the studio, but it would have made it more plain that The Mist is trying to evoke 50’s monster movies and presumably shows like The Twilight Zone, of which this could have been a feature length episode, right down to the ending, touted on the DVD cover as “ONE OF THE MOST SHOCKING EVER.” (It’s not really, but that review came from Maxim, and they probably didn’t even watch the whole movie before publishing that review.) Without revealing what happens, suffice to say it’s in keeping with the movie’s basic premise that fear can fundamentally alter people’s perception and thinking, and in The Mist, no one is exempt from that. What keeps The Mist from being entirely successfully is some characters that become annoyingly overwrought in the second half of the movie; the point Darabont is trying to make is that the people next to you can be as scary as any monsters that may be lurking outside, but that point gets muddled when certain characters go way over the top. Also, speaking of monsters, there’s some decidedly spotty special effects work to be found here (though I wonder if the change to black and white will make that last a moot point, and yes, I plan to sit through the black and white version, too). Fortunately, neither of those things is so much a liability that they ruin the movie. It’s also worth mentioning that the movie benefits from some good acting, particularly by Thomas Jane, who makes for a convincingly reluctant and flawed hero. All in all, The Mist is a pretty solid, effective monster movie, albeit one that may be too grim for some viewers.


(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)


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