Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Mist

It's better late to the party than never. I finally got around to checking out Director Frank Darabont's The Mist [2007]. I'm slow as you know. Darabont has helmed a number of fine films including The Green Mile [1999], The Shawshank Redemption [1994] and The Majestic [2001]. He's one of these storytellers that has a firm hand and grasp of character, appreciates narrative and utilizes action only to enhance his story.

So the marriage of writer Stephen King and director Frank Darabont has always been a fascinating and fruitful fusion. It was my understanding Stephen King really liked what Darabont had done with the end of his novella. The Mist is a short story taken from the book Skeleton Crew. I'd heard he wished he had thought of the ending himself. It's no surprise Darabont and King continue to respond to one another. They are clearly both fans. Darabont's aforementioned films [save for The Majestic] were also adaptations of Stephen King books. He seems to have a genuine appreciation for the King narrative and delivers it as a credible screenwriter. There is a genuine literary vibe to the productions. Some might even consider The Green Mile too many miles too long as a result of it, but it remains a minor classic.

Well, one critique on the back of the box dubs The Mist a "Masterpiece" [okay so it's Maxim magazine which frequently hosts covers of scantily clad women but who cares]. I would be hard pressed to disagree. The film is amazing and far surpassed my expectations. It is chock full of classic King characters and the kinds of exposition that make for classic King eventhough it is written and directed by Darabont. It is pure, thoughtful genius. It's also the kind of classic horror and science fiction combination I love. The Mist certainly evokes images of John Carpenter's The Fog. Everyone is always afraid of what's in it. Those films share one thing in common, everyone is afraid of what is in it. Along with the rapidly spreading mist is an ever expansive food supply for the creepy crawlies crittering around inside of it. One thing is certain, the fear of the unknown always makes for an edge of your seat thriller.

Questions of human behavior are on parade for this cast of characters as in many of King's works. King and Darabont both have a knack for zeroing in on the devolution of man and human behavior when circumstances become dire and those effects cause desperation. The breakdown of order and the rule of law generates an unpleasant portrait of people and their response amidst dire circumstances.

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Darabont applies the classic imprisoned King setting, filmed almost entirely in a Food House grocery mart in rural Maine [actually filmed in Louisiana], with taut, nerve-rattling, devilish fun. It does feel like small town, rural New England. Today's horror films just don't hold a candle to this kind of classic, character-driven monster movie. This is indeed a throwback in the steady hands of Darabont. Sometimes those monsters aren't always in the mist as Stephen King has always written.

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This is yet another King classic and ranks as one of my favorite King adaptations. I've seen many and this is an epic picture. King knows how to throw people together within supernatural circumstances like no other. The ensemble cast is wonderful too and wisely maintains an every man quality to it. Thomas Jane is terrific as are the supporting characters including a fanatical Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden [The Majestic, The X-Files], Samuel Witwer [Battlestar Galactica], Toby Jones and William Sadler. The King/ Darabont characters are always so rich and often extreme. We have all walks of life thrown together and it's interesting to see these writers explore the worst in us.

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Finally, chock one up for the visionaries. Frank Darabont serves up an unflinching take on the story and refused to modify the script to satisfy the suits. The Mist happens to be devastating. If you don't care for the happy Hollywood endings, look no further, this one wrote the book on sad. The Mist is downright downbeat and there isn't a happy note to be found. In fact, as much as I hate to use the word, as it it often overused, this one is essentially nihilistic. It is crushing. I remember when the film was out avoiding everything I could about it, because I knew one day I would check it out, but there was plenty of grumbling controversy surrounding the film. Whether it was how Darabont handled King's novella or the ending itself, this one generated discussion if you were paying attention. Well, I'm here to say, I approve. What a film! King and Darabont are always in consultation and this is a winner. In fact, there's a lovely conversation between the two men on the Blu-Ray. I'm not sure what it says about me given I loved it, but I did.

If you haven't seen it do so, it's a gem of a genre film. There's not anything particularly joyful about this film so don't expect it. This is one you'll be looking for an alternate ending on the disc. It's utterly twisted, but it's a work of science fiction art. The headscratcher: I still can't figure how that giant, taller-than-the-trees monstrosity, got here? It's massive! Things must have gone terribly wrong, but I won't say anymore. Fellow sci-fi monster fans, take heart, there's one waiting for you on store shelves right now! Are you thirsty for more?

The Mist: A

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have seen The Mist,and I liked it alot too !!!.That ending was something huh !!!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

You said it. Boy, was it ever. A real sucker punch.

If that ever happened how could you go on?

Anonymous said...

I don't have a clue,I don't beleive in suicide,but man How do you go on after that !!!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I'm with you. I couldn't do it either. But to get up and put your feet into a pair of pants everyday would be pretty rough going.