Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: The Mist

Based on a Stephen King novella, The Mist is a skillful and gripping monster/horror flick directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) that you should definitely see if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • you are familiar with, and enjoy, the "survival horror" genre
  • you like Stephen King's style (e.g. small town in Maine, every minor character is known by name to every other minor character, families in crisis due to monsters, etc.)

    …and especially if

  • you like a really great fuck-you ending.

    I've mentioned the fuck-you ending on this blog before. The fuck-you ending is the wonderful device whereby the filmmakers craft the story such that the audience thinks "Well, they can't POSSIBLY end the movie THAT way," and then they go ahead and do it. Drag Me to Hell had a very apt fuck-you ending in which a major character, well, justifies the movie's title.

    The Mist has an even better fuck-you ending—probably one of the best I've seen—and while it involves a minor lapse of logic on the part of the characters (in the vein of "Let's split up in this creepy old house," though far less obvious), it's still striking and effective. I'm going to resort to the hidden white spoiler text option here, because I really don't want to spoil it for you:

    [HIGHLIGHT IF YOU ALREADY KNOW HOW IT ENDS]Obviously Tom Jane should've waited on shooting everybody in the truck, because there weren't any monsters in their immediate vicinity, it's not like bullets go bad, and who knows when the cavalry might arrive. And it's understandable that, under the circumstances, the idea of the cavalry showing up at all might simply not occur to them. But for Tom Jane to fail to exhaust every possibility before choosing the nuclear option suggests a lapse in judgment so extreme that we should have been given more reason to believe it.[END SPOILER TEXT] For all I know, the novella went into it more; maybe the movie was already getting too long and they opted not to spend the time on it. But again, it doesn't hurt the effect that much.

    And best of all, we aren't asked to sit through a lot of long boring setup to get to the ending. Tension, scares, humor—all are abundant and well-crafted here, reminiscent of Slither, which came out around the same time. I'd even go so far as to say The Mist is better paced than Slither, and Slither's no slouch in that department. Of course, The Mist contains less overt humor—but more building dread. Fair trade-off, I'd say.

    The gist of The Mist is the grist for this…paragraph. A small town in Maine is beset by a powerful storm, driving a lot of the locals to the supermarket for supplies. Then the titular mist rolls in, a local old guy runs into the store screaming about something deadly in the mist, and the customers and clerks band together to ride out what they hope will be a temporary crisis. But they're about to discover…that sometimes…the greatest enemy is within! (Not this time, though. There's seriously freaky stuff outside.)

    A few familiar faces, but no A-list stars, make up the cast (among them Tom Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, and the always-welcome William Sadler). In rare moments, some characterization strains credulity (as in Harden's Bible-zealot antagonist), but even then the acting is solid.

    Otherwise, the characters are refreshingly smart and realistic, which was necessary to ground the film given its somewhat out-there premise (fully revealed very late in the story). This is the type of horror movie where you're so engaged that you start contemplating what you would do if you were stuck in this situation with these characters. At times it reminded me of Dawn of the Dead in that way, only The Mist is slightly preachier and less fun—but more exciting and realistic.

    The only reasons I can think of to not recommend The Mist would be if

  • you don't wish to endure occasional gore
  • you really have a thing about creepy-crawly critters

    …and particularly

  • you can't handle dark. Not The Crow dark—more like The Road dark.

    I don't want to oversell it. The Mist isn't as dark as The Road (the book—haven't gotten around to the movie yet, but I will. Oh yes, I will). But me even mentioning The Road here should give you a pretty good idea about whether you should see The Mist.

    Just don't read too much about it online. You may get spoiled, and this is one case where you really don't want to be.

    Star Score: 4 out of 5

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