A group of townspeople who take refuge together is combined with a perplexing danger that strikes a community, and you have a recipe for generating an infinite number of horror films, from “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) to “30 Days of Night.” All you have to do now is pick a new danger and new location of safety, as well as typecasting and personality traits to tell them apart.
In “The Mist“, based on a Stephen King novel, the violent storm that blows in a thick mist that envelops the Maine town where you know and love it is one of horror. David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his young son Billy (Nathan Gamble) drive cautiously into town to stock up on supplies at the market after the electricity goes out. They leave his mother behind, which may turn out to be a mistake. We meet a mixed bag of locals and weekenders at the store, including Brent Norton (Andre Braugher), the Draytons’ litigious neighbor; Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), a would-be messianic leader; and Ollie (Toby Jones), who, like all movies with an O in their name, is short and dorky.
If I’m not mistaken, there’s Something Out There in the fog. It batters on windows and doors, and is generally undetectable until a stun cut exposes an insect the size of a cat smacking into the store window. Then there are other items as well. Something with tentacles. Other things that appear to be a mix between a praying mantis and a dinosaur. Creatures that can consume half of a person in one bite
The lunatic David and his erratic wife, Mrs. Carmody, take control of the store’s two opposing factions: sane people who attempt to devise strategies for self-protection, and doomsday apocalypse hysterics who interpret these occurrences as a form of retribution for mankind’s sinful behavior. Mrs. Carmody’s motives are a little tenuous, although I believe she desires many followers, and I wouldn’t rule out human sacrifice. David urges everyone to remain indoors, but of course there are some hotheads who are driven out into the fog for whatever reason. Would you need a lot of convincing to stay inside if man-eating bugs were roaming the parking lot at your workplace?
In the same mall, David demonstrates some inconsistency when he leads a group of volunteers to the pharmacy in order to acquire medicines for a burned person. There is a lesson to be learned from this: Never shop in a supermarket that does not have its own prescription department. Another lesson can be found by noting that special effects are prohibitively expensive, therefore it’s nice to have a mist so you don’t have to pay for entire bug-eyed monsters doing a conga line.
The film was written and directed by Frank Darabont, the creator of “The Shawshank Redemption,” which is ranked No. 2 on IMDb’s all-time greatest films list, and who also served as a producer for “The Green Mile.” Both were based on Stephen King stories, but I believe he made a mistake this time. The budget, however, is enough to hire capable actors to play the cardboard characters and assemble some grisly and slimy effects.
The cast of characters continues to grow in the sequel, receiving new personalities and abilities. Toby Jones debunks the notion that an Ollie may have unexpected assets, proving that a film can contain clichés. Thomas Jane is commendable as the reasonable leader, but Marcia Gay Harden – give her a break; it’s not a viable or realistic role. I grew weary of Andre Braugher’s neighbor, who takes offense to imagined slights so easily that he starts to seem like a device plot device.
You will be correct if you believe terrible things pounce on individuals, and they make you want to see this film. It is a competently produced Horrible Things Pouncing on People Film. You will be sadly mistaken if you think Frank Darabont has matched the track record of “Shawshank” and “Green Mile.” There is talk that the insect monsters arrived through a tear in space-time. Rifts in s-t continuums are one of the most useful concepts in sci-fi, so you’ve got your whole recipe now: a danger to the community, a group of townspeople, and a crevice. Please have fun with it.
Now playing on Cinema HD.
Directed by: Frank Darabont
Based on: The Mist by Stephen King
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Jeffrey DeMunn, Frances Sternhagen, Sam Witwer, Alexa Davalos, Nathan Gamble
Release date: November 21, 2007
Running time: 126 minutes
Country: United States