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The Mist Brings Back the Monster Genre
A film review by Cole Haddon, Film.com
Director Frank Darabont
Starring Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher
Admit it: Itís hard to get excited by Stephen King adaptations these days. Iím not aware of any other author whoís had so many samples of his work translated to the big screen (and small screen), which, at this point, exists as a number so high that youíd need NASA scientists to calculate it to the exact decimal. Hell, Iím pretty sure like 48 different ones opened up last week in the US alone.
Okay, thatís an exaggeration, but I do think itís safe to say that Kingís work is so ubiquitous now that heís achieved a sort of living godhood. Itís hard to find another writer, besides maybe God, whoís so well known. Of course, this results in a sort of pop-culture overload that, despite seeming like it had reached its zenith more than a decade ago, continues unabated ó with good adaptations only popping up once every four or five years, it seems. Thatís what makes his latest, The Mist, so surprising; it follows hot on the heels of 1408, another satisfying big-screen adaptation. Two good King movies in one year? Thatís like finding two toys in a Cracker Jack box! Then again, one of the two is helmed by Frank Darabont ó The Mist, that is ó and, well, thatís kind of cheating. Almost. The writer-director is also responsible for two of Kingís best adaptations, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, so itís fair to say he knows what heís doing by now.
Based on one of Kingís most popular short stories, The Mist begins and ends with painter David Drayton (Thomas Jane). After a storm knocks power out at his lakeshore home, David takes his young son into town to get supplies at the local grocery store where townies and big-city weekenders shop. Shortly after the two pass through the doors, a mysterious mist falls over the town and a crazed townie rushes inside, claiming thereís something in the mist that killed his friend. The semi-packed store locks the doors, intending to wait out what is probably some sort of after-effect of last nightís storm. Before long, though, a store employee is snatched by a giant tentacle in the loading dock area, witnessed by David and bagger Ollie (Toby Jones); everyone quickly divides into those who believe this account and those who donít.
The next two days and nights are marked by a Lord of the Flies-grade devolution, inspired by a holier-than-though religious fanatic (Marcia Gay Harden) who believes these are the end times and sheís Godís prophet. To help the hysteria along, the scares are piled on, escalating as more creatures come out of the mist, including giant insects and some sort of pterodactyl thingamabobs. Sticking around begins to look like a bad idea, though, and Drayton and his small group of supporters decide to flee in his tank-like Land Rover.
When the movieís twist finally comes ó and all horrors have to have them these days ó itís just about as daring and shocking as anything George A. Romero offered up in his earlier work. Unfortunately, it just doesnít end up saying anything other than, “Are you shocked? Good.’ This was 1408ís ultimate problem, too. Still, the movie goes a long way, along with this autumnís 30 Days of Night, toward resurrecting the monster movie genre ó and Iím all for that!