Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Mist

Frank Darabont has had great skill when adapting Stephen King’s stories to film. His first widely successful outing with The Shawshank Redemption was a great film with terrific performances throughout. The second try with The Green Mile was equally, if not more, successful than his first major motion picture. Both of these films truly captured the stories perfectly, perhaps may have surpassed the feel of the books with the acting chops of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in Shawshank and Tom Hanks in Mile.

When it was announced that Darabont was directing yet another King adaptation, I was psyched. When it was publicized that the movie was based on the short story, "The Mist," I was even more elated. However, when articles started showing up in magazines that the budget wasn’t very big and even Darabont himself was saying there won’t be much in special effects, I started to doubt that this film would be much to care about. In fact, I started getting angry that studios would hold back and not let the genius of Frank Darabont shine. The guy had had two great Oscar-worthy movies under his belt; give him the budget he needs!

Even with all this, I still looked forward to the film. I read the short story while vacationing in Mexico around nineteen years ago and I found it very riveting. I remember thinking to myself that a movie should be adapted out of this. But I figured too many people would associate it with the John Carpenter film some twenty years earlier called The Fog.

Stephen King is such a great story teller and Frank Darabont has been able to clearly put his stories to film perfectly. Usually, King’s monster or supernatural stories don't fare well on film (Dreamcatcher definitely falls under this category), but this one hits the nail right on the head.

The Mist such a simple story of how a storm hits a little Maine coastal town and leaves a little destruction in its wake. Thomas Jane plays David Drayton, the local movie poster artist (King fans will love the poster he’s working on as the storm hits) who lives there with his wife, Steff (Kelly Collins Lintz), and son, Billy (Nathan Gamble). They take note of the devastation around the house the next morning and observe the mist rolling in over the hills. Paying it no mind, Drayton takes his son and neighbor, Brent Norton (Andre Braugher), to the local grocery store to get supplies, leaving his wife at home. After getting to the store, a local (Jeffrey DeMunn) comes running into the store, blood on his face and screaming about something in the mist. Everybody in the store freaks out, takes refuge and that’s when the fun begins.

The story centers around this group of people, people that know each other but soon start taking sides and instead of coming together during this turmoil, they vilify and turn against one another. Playing a religious zealot flawlessly is the great Marcia Gay Harden. In fact, just about all the actors and actresses that are featured in the cast play their parts believeably. I only have one problem with that and it’s the young United States Army private (Sam Witwer) that has the thing going with the clerk, Sally (Alexa Davalos). Those manscaped eyebrows were very distracting and I’m pretty sure the Army would have a problem with him doing that, if not his U.S. Army brethren.

The monster effects and CGI work seamlessly throughout the film and you’re able to feel the tension in the air as the characters don’t know what’s going to happen next. The creature designs were out of this world, I’d never pictured them to look that way when I read the book. I always thought of pterodactyls, giant squids, huge spiders and brachiosaurs when I read the book. But these monsters were truly terrifying. A lot of people have complained about the CGI work—and, yes, it’s not the greatest—but I felt it worked and looked pretty terrifying at times.

I recommend that anyone who hasn’t seen The Mist should read the short story first and then venture out to buy or rent this gem of a DVD or Blu-Ray. The book never gives a reason for the monsters and how they came to be. Also, the story never resolves itself in the book. In the film, the question of how the creatures came to be is answered and the film comes to a conclusion, one that Stephen King himself wishes he came up with (as Frank Darabont mentions in an extra on the DVD).

One other neat extra on the disc is the full movie of how Darabont intended it to bein black & white. Frank Darabont says in the extra featured on the disc that he wanted to release the movie this way, but the studio executives balked at that.

My final “bit” on The Mist? Truly an awesome film that hasn’t been visualized in a while; it’s a true monster movie that’s reminiscent of the horror movies of the 1950s.

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