Review: ‘The Mist’

Wow, TWO good movies based on Stephen King stories in the same year? You bet. As entertaining as 1408? Not quite.

Following a massive storm that strikes the town of Bridgton, Maine, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his son drive into town with their neighbor just ahead of thick mist rolling out of the hills on the outskirts. While inside loading up on supplies with other townies recovering from the previous night’s storm, the mist suddenly overtakes the town followed by blood-curdling screams of those still outside. With the phones down, the power out, and people dying outside, those alive inside the store speculate about what could be out in the mist. Some will plot to escape with the help of on another, but others will turn to Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), who seems convinced that God’s wrath is upon the earth.

The concept is simple; trapped inside a limited space and a lack of information left to our own devices, how long does it take for rational, intelligent people to start sacrificing one another for their own survival? Long-time Stephen King collaborator and director Frank Darabont wrote and directed this screenplay as one of the most supernatural and horrific of King’s stories he’s ever adapted to screen, and this time the monsters outside are real. Even more frightening is that, in spite of scary things outside, the worst monsters are still the ones wearing a human face.

While the story touches on possible causes for the existence of “the mist” and whatever is out there roaming around in it, the bulk of the film deals with hysteria-induced religious conviction to the point of making up whatever you want as long as the danger goes away. At first, reason prevails, but as reality gives way to the unknown, all things seem possible, even the unlikely possibility of Hell’s mouth opening to swallow humanity whole. Of course, if such a thing did happen, the denizens of wherever probably wouldn’t pick and choose their victims, but it’s amazing to watch people who truly believe themselves doomed ready to believe in anything that might save them.

Marcia Gay Harden has the toughest job in the film, transforming from known nitpicker to cult leader simply because weaker willed people grant her the power to do so. Thomas Jane does his hero thing so well that he almost seems underplayed, reduced to a mere father figure and protector. But the real star of the film is the atmosphere of dread generated by frightened people trapped in a place as unassuming as a grocery store, and Darabont knows when to crank up the fright. If that’s the tingly feeling down the back of your neck that you’ve been scratching for, this is your film.

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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