Baddie: Human hubris.
Lesson: If at first you don’t succeed, have Frank Darabont write the movie adaptation.
Sad though it is, Shame September must once again come to an end. I saved The Mist for last, because it has the most hype as being a legitimately good movie. Also, there is a television show being birthed from this movie. I’m not sure about it. It comes with high accreditation, having been directed and written by a Mr. Frank Darabont, whom you may know from some of the better known Stephen King adaptations like The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption.
His deft ability to work with King’s source material shows itself once again with The Mist, which is not only my favorite movie I’ve reviewed for Shame September, but potentially my favorite King movie now. I was actually engaged enough to go out and locate the novella that inspired the movie and then read it. And let me tell you – the novella is okay, but the movie is great.
You know how I’ve been whining a lot about these King adaptations? About how they’re campy and not very scary and the endings are underwhelming? Well I take it all back. The Mist is a delight. Caution: There will definitely be spoilers ahead.
Now, The Mist is well and good-hyped on the interwebz, so I knew something was janky before launching into it. AKA I knew there would be monsters, although I was under the naive mis-guided internet assumption that they would be zombies or something equivalent. You can imagine my surprise when the first tentacle showed up. But – before we get to the monsters, let’s talk about what this adaptation did right. Firstly, they used the mystery of the mist well, but also managed the pacing very well. The film opens with our protagonist’s family and the terse anxiety that comes with a large storm and dealing with the aftermath. Soon, however, we’re locked in a supermarket with no idea what’s going on but we know the mist has something dangerous. This is where the film has to make a decision – the ‘mist’ is not enough to keep everyone inside, and one person screaming in the fog is not enough. So we get our first tentacle, and it’s bloody and disgusting and shocking.
This could have been a movie about a Kraken in the Mist and I probably would have been a happy camper (Grabbers) but it escalates in a beautiful way. For one, there are more monsters. This quickly evolves into a Lovecraftian monster situation, with creatures that defy man’s comprehension and imagination. Some you never get a clear look at, but there’s visual satisfaction from the insects and smaller creatures. There are also terror-inducing spiders. Guys I hate spiders so much. I can deal with everything but spiders are so creepy holy god. I could go a long time without that scene with the guy and his spider-egg ridden screaming body falling and exploding into tons of tiny spiders. I am freaked out just typing about it. Here, have a Wiki with all the details about the monsters.
Secondly, The Mist deals with people well. Everyone has notes of an overplayed character (religious zealot, mom, hick, etc.) but generally speaking the characters are well rounded enough to function with a bit of humor. People are relatable enough that you might feel a pang of remorse as they die. In fact, the characterization is strong enough that the internal drama is just as interesting as the monster drama (Take notes, “The Walking Dead”) and often times is happening concurrently. The novella had some unnecessary complications while the film felt rounded out and more complete.
Thirdly, the ending is so improved that King regrets not writing it originally. The film builds to this final moment of desperation and because the car ride is made primarily in silence after such a gruesome escape it has a very grim, stoic feel. The final moments are terse as you wait to see if the characters will carry through their threat of suicide. So terrible is the fate awaiting them outside, so great is their fear that they can’t stand to face it, not together and not apart. I think I audibly gasped when the mist rolls away. More cynical viewers may have predicted the end, and I think a part of me suspected it, but I like to think that one of the best things about me as a reviewer is that I am able to be completely taken up by a good film. Such was the case with The Mist.
So to conclude, The Mist is a great horror movie, mediocre CGI aside. Genuinely scary, gut-wrenching with some truly fantastic creature design and much more production value than the other movies in Shame September.