The Mist is a film based on my very favorite Stephen King novella of the same name. I remember my anticipation of the theatrical release. As an avid reader (or as King would say, “constant reader”), I was both excited and hesitant. Excited because I love the story but we all know how well King adaptations go…certainly more misses than hits. Luckily, one of the most underappreciated directors in the business was at the helm. Frank Darabont had already made stellar King adaptations in The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Could he nail the hat trick?
The Mist is about a small Maine town that experiences an especially violent electrical storm overnight. Not only did it knock out everyone’s power, there was also damage from high winds, and a strange mist that started forming on the outskirts of town that morning. This is where our film starts, with our protagonist investigating the damage around his property. Once a supply list is made he, his son, and his neighbor head to the local market. This is where the real meat and potatoes of the movie take place. Once inside, air raid sirens send their eerie klaxon around the town. While everyone in the market is looking around in wonder, an earthquake hits. After the quake a bloodied man runs into the market yelling, “Something in the mist……..something in the mist took John Lee!” This my friends is where we reach the top of the first hill of the roller coaster. It’s going to be a ride from here on out.
The Mist, on its surface, is a classic creature feature. The coming of the mist brings strange creatures who attack mostly in the night. There are flying bug types, horrific skull faced spiders, and crustacean and aquatic types that could have been pulled straight from H.P. Lovecraft’s giant catalogue of creatures. This is all window dressing for the real movie that is happening inside, which is what happens to a group of people who are trapped as the world they know it is turned on its head. What happens is bad. People turn on each other, religious zealots create their own interpretations, and people die. The scary thing is that none of this is far off base of what would actually happen. I think that’s where The Mist succeeds. It gives you a monster movie that you can believe in, which isn’t really the case with most.
The ensemble cast is brilliant. Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Andre Braugher, William Sadler, and Toby Jones round out quite an impressive group of actors and actress. Darabont was so impressed with the cast the he brought several with him onto his next project…The Walking Dead. They did an excellent job of acting how you would expect people to act under these stresses. They’re convincing enough to make you pick sides as you watch the movie and really feel the repercussions of decisions that are made. It also makes the ending of the film one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen (if no one has spoiled it for you, please, oh please, don’t look it up before you watch the movie). King has said he liked Darabont’s ending better than his own that he wrote for the novella.
This is one of my favorite King adaptations, and The Mist succeeds where most King films fail. Darabont “gets” King. He understands where the real story is. It’s never in the creatures or the mysterious. It’s in the people. I highly recommend the Blu-Ray of The Mist because it includes the director’s preferred version…..it’s in pure black and white like all the old classics were.