Movie: "The Mist"
Directed by: Frank Darabont
Writing credits: Stephen King, Frank Darabont
Plot: After a terrible storm, a mysterious mist comes down from the mountains and envelopes a quiet New England town. As the locals realize that there are strange, deadly creatures lurking in the mist, a group of them hole up inside a grocery store and try to survive.
Review: First and foremost, I have to admit that I've not read the Stephen King novella that this is based on, so my judgments are based on the movie's merits alone, instead of whether or not it was a faithful adaptation. When this movie initially came out in theaters, I wasn't the least bit interested in what appeared to be standard generic horror fare, but my friend Josh (Jaeger S. Meistersen to longtime readers) gave it his highest recommendation, referring to it as "the feel good movie of the year". Seeing as how I love bleak, depressing movies, I decided to give it a chance on DVD. I'm glad I did, because The Mist is one of the best horror movies made in recent years, and I'd probably rank it among the best I've ever seen, period.
This is a disappointing time to be a horror fan, when most mainstream horror movies amount to little more than what's popularly referred to as "torture porn", where paper thin plots serve as the barest vehicles to get random, undeveloped characters to meet their grisly, final ends, which are often not even as gory as older horror movies but are endlessly touted for their "shock value". They don't even offer the charm of seeing an iconic character like Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees doing the chopping anymore, which is what made the horror films of the 80s so damned fun to watch. So it's refreshing to see Frank Darabont, a man who understands the promises offered by the eerie subtleties of horror, and who realizes that our fellow human beings are often the scariest monsters of all, tackle a modern horror film. Of course, he's no stranger to adapting the work of King, horror or no, so it should come as little surprise that he's more than up to the task of handling the master of horror's work.
I'm not going to get into the plot details here, but like so many horror films, this one involves a group of frightened people trapped by supernatural circumstances beyond their control, and as time goes on tensions get out of control and tempers explode. It's a typical horror formula, but quite effective when handled well, because there are often far more compelling dangers inside the "safety" of whatever makeshift refuge the characters find themselves in. What I like about this film is that instead of offering up every single boring cliché you can expect to see in 99% of the current horror fare, this movie often approaches cliché and then skirts around it, toying with your expectations. That's not to say this film is entirely without predictable moments, but odds are if you think that gun is out of bullets (as it would be in any other contemporary horror movie), it's probably not.
The mysterious creatures in the mist remain mysterious for the most part--you get to see them, but only in hazy glimpses at best. They do look pretty damn cool however, and not to take anything away from King, but fans of H.P. Lovecraft will probably appreciate their designs, particularly the one I'll refer to as the "behemoth". The origins of the mist phenomenon are only explained in the vaguest possible terms, but that's okay, because the real story revolves around a small group of characters in and around the grocery store, and that's really all that matters. If you're someone who requires exacting detail, you will no doubt find this frustrating, but as someone who appreciates the romantic vagaries of mystery, I found it a most welcome element.
The best (and most divisive) part of the movie, however, is the ending. Upon watching it, I felt like I had been punched in the fucking soul. It's one of the most twisted, horrific endings I've ever seen, and even as my roommates and I joked "wouldn't it be awful if..." we still couldn't believe it when it actually unfolded before our eyes. I often find myself loving ultra-bleak endings that piss off 90% of the audience, and this is no exception. I've read many complaints online that people had about the end, about how it wasn't faithful to King's original story and it was too awful, too horrible, just too damned depressing. But hey, King gave Darabont his blessing on the rewritten ending, and since it actually made me feel physically sick when I saw it, I think it did a fine job of serving up an honest to goodness portion of genuine horror.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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