Movies 30 Mar 2008 05:25 pm

Play “Mist”-y for me

the-mist.jpg

Frank Darabont has directed two of the most successful adaptations of Stephen King’s work — The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile — but he’s never tackled one of the author’s more gruesome entries. Until now.

The Mist is one of King’s best novellas, the story of a group of people who find themselves trapped together inside a grocery store while a mysterious fog covers the countryside. Inside this fog are some otherworldly creatures, and they’re not dropping in for a friendly visit.

Darabont gets great performances from his ensemble cast, led by Thomas Jane as a movie-poster artist who becomes the leader of the disparate little band of refugees, and Marcia Gay Harden as a Bible-thumping fundamentalist who goes over the edge when the creepy-crawlies attack. In one of the making-of features included on the second DVD (released last week), Darabont says that the film is about the fragility of human civilization under pressure. And humanity doesn’t acquit itself too well in this movie, as the customers go in short order from fighting about who will stack dog-food bags in front of the store’s windows to offering up human sacrifices to appease the Mist.

Harden’s character is at the center of this devolution. In the interest of balance, it would probably have been beneficial to include a religious character who wasn’t a babbling psychotic. One wonders how the other characters, even under extreme duress, manage to fall so quickly and completely under her spell. But maybe that’s the sad legacy of religious zealotry.

Probably the most shocking part of the movie is the end, which offers a one-two sucker punch quite different from King’s conclusion to the story. This one hurts, but in a good way: It’s unforgettable. Whether it will satisfy or make you angry depends a lot on your perspective about the movie’s theme: Will humanity fold at the slightest provocation and sink to its basest level?

Like Pan’s Labyrinth, this movie combines CGI, puppetry and make-up effects to sell the goods. The extras indicate it was filmed extremely fast on a small budget; none of this comes through on the screen. The Mist is a very good movie — the perfect weekend horror flick that also manages to make the viewer think.

One of the bonus features is a “director’s preferred version” — the complete movie in black and white. Darabont introduces it by saying it’s a tribute to all the great horror flicks of the 1960s that were also monochromatic. I haven’t watched it that way yet (I was lucky to get my wife to watch it in color, let alone black and white), but I will. The Mist is a movie worth seeing at least twice.

I also liked the cameo for The Dark Tower, King’s longest work, which pops up as the movie poster Thomas Jane’s character is painting in the opening scene. Is this a sneaky way of saying that fans can expect a film version of that story somewhere down the line? If so, Jane would be a good choice for Roland Deschain, the gunslinger whose quest for the Dark Tower occupies seven volumes.

One Response to “Play “Mist”-y for me”

  1. on 02 Apr 2008 at 1.patrick said …

    the movie is a thinker, for sure, but some of the conflict that goes on is kind of annoying, it’s like “There’s a monster out there” … “no there’s not”… “yes there is” … “no there’s not” … “but look here, something tore my arm off” … “um, no, you’re faking it”…

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