The Mist

The Mist


Reviewed by: Tony Sullivan

In the aftermath of a ferocious storm, David Drayton (Thomas Jane), his son, Billy (Nathan Gamble) and his persnickety neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) head into town to stock up on supplies to cope with the subsequent power cut and property damage.

While they're in the local supermarket an unnatural mist envelops the town, and in the mist lurk unspeakable horrors.

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The supermarket is sanctuary for a broad cross section of personalities: milquetoast assistant manager, Ollie Weeks (Toby Jones), who comes to the fore; sensible older lady, Irene (Frances Sternhagen); staid, out-of-towner Dan Miller (Jeffrey DeMunn), free spirit Amanda Dunfrey (Laurie Holden) and local zealot, Mrs Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden). Throw in a couple of soldiers, who may know what is really going on, and some good ol' boys and you have a nice smorgasbord for hungry monsters.

Stephen King's story, The Mist, began life as a novella as part of an anthology entitled Dark Forces - later finding its way into a collection of King stories under the title Skeleton Crew. Since most of King's novels are somewhat long-winded affairs, by contrast The Mist boasts an extreme economy of set up.

People are trapped and attacked by 'things'.

Frank Darabont's movie wastes no time in preamble, his mission is to get the assorted players into that supermarket and throw monsters at them.

Serious monster movies have always been hard to come by. There is always the urge to send up the genre perhaps as a response to the desire for adults to dilute the fears of childhood. So situations are played for laughs, or comic relief is introduced. It was so in The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935 and continues in the likes of Slither and Feast.

The Mist plays it straight.

The problem with playing a monster movie straight is that your monster has to be sincere. In the two best examples of the genre, Alien and Jaws, the titular critter is only fleetingly seen and by the time one does get a good look at it one is sufficiently invested in the characters to believe.

The Mist has to introduce its beasties very early – and herein lurks the problem.

There have been great leaps in Computer Generated Imagery in the years since Robert Patrick's T-1000 ambled out of an inferno in the early stages of Terminator 2 back in 1991. Even then a truth was learned. Mix practical and CGI effects to help convince the audience. Such techniques helped make us believers in resurrected dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

Alas, in The Mist, the 'join' is too easy to see - the difference between practical and pixel. In a very early scene, a hapless fellow is snatched by a thingy - look at how much more convincing the severed chunk looks than the animated tentacle did. Later manifestations look alarmingly like they wandered in from George Lucas' Tattooine Star Wars set which does the piece no favours.

Through situation and performance one can sell an iffy monster. Here The Mist does better. Thomas Jane is an adequate hero, suitably buff and lantern jawed, Charlton Heston-lite so to speak. Toby Jones is a revelation, sporting a flawless American accent he becomes real to us. Jeffrey DeMunn and Laurie Holden do well in underwritten parts. Marcia Gay Harden's turn as the increasingly fanatical Mrs Carmody doesn't come over so well, although this is not so much down to the performance as the fact that she is the typical King religious stereotype and becomes a bore.

Endings. Since I can't spoil it for you, I should point out that it is a very different proposition to the original story's ending. Unlike many of the audience I had no qualms with the tone of the finale, but my gripe is that it didn't feel true to the characters. I leave you with the comment from the gentleman behind me as the credits rolled: "Well that sucked".

Reviewed on: 05 Jan 2008
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The Mist packshot
People are trapped in a supermarket after a sinister mist envelopes the town.

Director: Frank Darabont

Writer: Frank Darabont, based on the novel by Stephen King

Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Jeffrey DeMunn, Frances Sternhagen, Alexa Davalos, Nathan Gamble, Chris Owen

Year: 2007

Runtime: 127 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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