From the director of such incredible classics as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile comes another film based on a Stephen King novella. But if The Mist is seen in the same vein as those other films, this iffy horror/thriller can’t help but come up short.
The Mist (2007) is a supernatural horror film written and directed by Frank Darabont. It stars Thomas Jane as David Drayton, an artist in a small town that goes for supplies at the local supermarket after a massive storm – only to watch as a mysterious mist filled with monstrous creatures emerges and traps him, his son (Nathan Gamble) and countless others in the store in a fight to survive.
Knowing the pedigree behind director Frank Darabont can’t help but elevate expectations of The Mist to new heights. Based on a Stephen King novella? Check. Mysterious supernatural elements ala Green Mile? Check. Frank Darabont? Double check. Instant classic?
Well, no. While it does have a few things going for it, namely a great cast and a few standout horror moments, this horror film is unfortunately light on the thrills and even lighter on the excitement. While I respect what Darabont is going for in terms of the underlying messages of the film, there are vast swathes of this film that are just simply dull. Darabont has no grasp on how to maintain tension over long stretches, and even the moments of drama between the characters feel artificial and stale. That being said, the film does steadily pick up in thrills as it chugs along, to finally conclude in a sucker punch of an ending that plenty of people are going to hate, but I personally love. Its just so anti-Hollywood and emotionally gripping, but even so still can’t remedy the sordid disappointment of the rest of the film.
The Mist fares a little bit better on the character side thanks to a solid cast and decent (if uneven) writing. Thomas Jane doesn’t make much of an impression as a lead protagonist, but he has a likeability and everyman quality to him that ensures he’s easy to root for. The film also boasts three separate actors from The Walking Dead – Laurie Holden, who’s as so-so as she was as Andrea, Melissa McBride who has a small but integral role and Jeffrey DeMunn who I barely recognised without his Dale beard. In addition there’s also Toby Jones as one of the store clerks, and Andre Braugh (who I’m quite a fan of) as the Drayton’s neighbour Brent, and who both turn in solid performances.
The one sore spot in the cast was Marcia Gay Harden as the hardened Christian Mrs Carmody. Its not that her performance was necessarily bad (though it didn’t help), but she was written so obnoxiously on-the-nose with her spout of ‘end of days’ that she was a constant annoyance that dragged proceedings into a cliched apocalyptic horror trope that’s been done a million times. Not only that, but her character goes on an arc that is completely unbelievable and ludicrous considering how she acts earlier in the film. The film has plenty of sore spots when it comes to the writing honestly. While many of the characters are well written enough, occasionally an incredibly stiff or inauthentic piece of dialogue would show its ugly head not unlike one of the monsters trying to kill them.
Speaking of those monsters, their ghastly designs are excellent, but can never escape how haphazard the CGI is. Granted, its 10 years old now and can’t help but age, but even for its time this type of completely CGI characters just didn’t work, and drags down the tension of the movie when the audience is constantly aware they’re fighting something artificial rather than real. A few more practical effects wouldn’t have gone astray. That being said, there are a few standout sequences of genuine horror pocketed throughout the film. One scene in particular is going to have arachnophobes petrified, and everyone else just as disgusted. Its a shame these moments are so few and far between however, and goes back to Darabont’s inability to maintain tension through all of the film’s slow moments.
The Mist is no classic. Hell, I don’t even think it has the trappings of a cult film. Its too devoid of tension, filled with iffy CGI and even iffier writing. While it may be helped along by a memorable ending and a solid cast, its just not enough to save The Mist from mediocrity.
General Audiences: Meh
Film Buffs: Meh