Frank Darabont is famously no stranger to Stephen King, but an argument could be made that his superlative adaptations of both The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile doesn’t fully encapsure the more horrific nature of the author’s more traditional works – if, of course, you ignore prison rape and spectacular electric chair malfunctions. And yet in 2007 the director completed his King hat-trick that not only embraced a more full-throttle horror tale but firmly established Darabont as THE primary director of the insanely prolific novelist bar none.
It’s a day like any other in Maine and artist David Drayton is heading into town with his young son for supplies, but their idyllic morning is about to take a noticable decline in quality when an extremely ominous mist comes rolling over the mountains and envelops everything. Chilling out in the local supermarket with a large cross-section of the townsfolk, a distinct twinge of fear grips everyone when someone comes hurtling out of the greyish haze screaming that there’s something dangerous lurking outside in the grey gloom, something hungry. He’s not bloody wrong either, as a big dose of foolhardy skepticism and some costly trial and error reveals that predatory Lovecraftian creatures are lurking in the mist that can’t wait to get their spikey tentacles and snapping claws on any doughy townsfolk that blunder their way. Soon David and the people in the supermarket are fending off various assaults of this agressive new form of eco system from human-toothed, acidic spiders to building sized behemoths but the most dangerous adversary may already be in their midst in the form of the insanely pias Mrs Carmody who is convinced it’s the end of days (can’t say I blame her on that one) and starts forming a dangerously reactionary congregation out of the terrified, surviving townsfolk and with her talk of fire and brimstone gets people to seriously consider human sacrifice to keep the monsters at bay. Realizing he and his son are in very real danger from this localized mass hysteria, David and a handful of sane allies plan to make a break for it before Carmody makes good on her insane promise, but is sneaking out into a world crawling with twisted, otherworldly, man-eating beasties really the lesser of two evils or is the weakness of man truly the greatest threat of all?
Flatly put, The Mist is one of the greatest nihilistic monster movies ever made. A film that embraces all the slimy, gooey thrills a good creature feature should contain while having some real things to say about the nature of crowd mentality and man’s insistence of regressing through thousands of years of civilisation into maddened superstition the second something arises that they don’t understand. Yes, man is the real monster here, finger pointing and blame flinging the very moment the first victim is turned into human equivalent of a Mars bar, but the very familiar lesson is communicated immensely well by Darabont and his usual stable of actors. In this world when the chips are down, the band Slipknot are absolutely right. People = Shit.
Thomas Jane gives quality everyman as a guy just trying to protect his son and get home to his wife in the face of such overwhelming insanity and has immensely solid back up in the form of talented character actors Tobey Jones, Laurie Holden and Jeffery DeMunn – the latter two joining Darabont on The Walking Dead when he was show runner along with Melissa McBride who shows in a small but punishing role as a woman desperate to get home to her kids. However it’s the people who dont exactly show off the virtues of human kind who make the most impact with a tip of the hat to William Sadler as an infuriatingly weak willed towns person and Brooklyn 99’s Andre Braugher as David’s class obsessed, priggish neighbour (essentially Captain Holt without the laughs) who flat out refuses to believe ANYTHING during to being pathologically sensible and is quite happily willing to bet his life on it. But it’s Macia Gay Harden who’ll REALLY make you angry as the unhinged religious nutjob Mrs Carmody who follows on from other textbook Stephen King loonies such as Carrie White’s mother and The Dead Zone’s Greg Stillson and does a maliciously insidious job of both stirring up both the members of her “flock” and you, the audience, that how much you despise her is a clear testimony to how good her performance is.
In comparison, the monster stuff is oddly a relief from the powder keg of tension that’s bubbling up within the aisles of the supermarket and while some of the CGI is a little crude, the vast array of distorted wildlife are creepy and horrid enough to give literal chills with the aforementioned teeth-spiders pulling into the lead by a malformed nose.
However, The Mist’s true legacy as a magnificent horror film lies in it’s truly upsetting ending which delivers a gut punch of such staggering brutality, it’ll stay with you for weeks. It’s an ending that even took King himself unawares as his original novella ended on more of a question mark and is played to cruel perfection that if your response to it is nothing short of physically visceral, you may need to go to a psychiatrist.
Grim, mean and totally down-beat, Darabont, sadly hasn’t made a full-length feature since but his final movie (to date) is an emotionally punishing monster mash where the most brutal creature is man itself.
Not to be mist…