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Mist, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Misty Mountain Chomp"
4 stars

Although they used to be a staple of the moviegoing experience back in the Fifties and Sixties, the monster movie genre has fallen on hard times in recent years. Despite the quantum leaps in effects technology, those yearning for an old-fashioned monster mash has been largely stymied as such beasts now tend to serve as window dressing in elaborate fantasy epics like “The Lord of the Rings” and “Beowulf.” In the past year, however, a mini-renaissance in old-school creature features appears to have begun. First there was “The Host,” the brilliant South Korean film that honored the traditions of the genre while offering any number of sly variations on the conventions of the genre. Then we had the surprise appearance of that bizarre teaser trailer before “Transformers” for the then-untitled “Cloverfield,” a J.J. Abrams production offered up tantalizing hints of unknown creatures running amok in the Big Apple. Now we have “The Mist,” a long-gestating adaptation of the Stephen King novella that is so steeped in the creature feature traditions of the past that you half-expect such veterans of the genre as Morris Ankrum, Rex Reason, and Mara Corday to suddenly turn up to do their part in humanity’s last stand against an array of mysterious and loathsome monsters.

As the film opens, a mysterious storm suddenly strikes a small and bucolic Maine town, knocking down power lines and ripping up trees.. After the dust has settled, local David Drayton (Thomas Jane), along with young son Billy (Nathan Gamble) and grumpy neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) head into town to pick up food and supplies at the local grocery store, though not before noticing a mysterious mist that has settled upon the nearby lake. Just after they arrive, a local man comes running in, bleeding from the mouth and screaming about something horrible in the mist that is now enveloping the entire town. At first, the assumption is that the guy is crazy or that there may have been an accident at a local chemical plant but while trying to restart a generator in the stockroom, David hears some strange pounding on the loading dock door. At first no one believes him but when a few go in back to investigate for themselves, they foolishly open the door and find themselves doing battle with an exceptionally fearsome-looking tentacle that drags on of them to his presumably icky death before disappearing.

At a time like this, you would like to think that everyone trapped within the store would be able to unite as one in order to help each other and figure a way out of their common predicament. Alas, in time-honored genre fashion, the people in the store wind up breaking down into three distinctive groups that are at odds with each other. One, led by David and including store butcher Ollie (Toby Jones), pistol-packing schoolteacher Amanda (Laurie Holden), good ol boy Jim (William Sadler) and elderly spitfire Irene (Frances Sternhagen), accept the fact that they are under siege from monsters and want to hole up in the store while trying to figure out a escape plan. Another, fostered by outsider Brent, who believes that all the monster talk is nothing more than elaborate joke that the locals are playing on him, counsels that they need to leave the store and seek help for themselves. The third, and perhaps the most dangerous, is the one led by local busybody/religious fanatic Mrs Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden)–not only does she believe that there are monsters outside the store, she believes that they are meant as divine retribution against all the sinners of the world (whose numbers apparently consist of anyone who isn’t Mrs Carmody), that God himself has personally chosen her to spread the word about the oncoming End Times and that a blood sacrifice will be necessary to appease him. Mrs. Carmody’s rantings are easily laughed off at first but after a couple of attacks from the mysterious creatures, she begins to get more and more people in the store believing her to be some kind of prophet and calling for blood.

Although I admit to not having read King’s original novella in a while, I seem to recall his version of “The Mist” as a cheerfully one-dimensional horror potboiler that was the literary equivalent of an old Grade-B monster mash that your local horror movie host might have cranked out late one night. In translating the story from the page to the screen, writer-director Frank Darabont (whose previous films include the very different King adaptations “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile”) has chosen to amplify the gradual breakdowns between the people trapped inside the store as the pressure that they are under drives them to increasingly brutal and unforgivable acts. This is an idea that has some resonance in the post-9/11 world that we live in but Darabont never really figures out a way of capturing that in contemporary terms. Instead, all he has to offer us is the notion that when they are cut off from the basics of society, the people stuck inside the store will inevitably become just as monstrous as the creatures outside of it, a notion that seemed kind of dated and obvious when “The Twilight Zone” trotted it out every few weeks or so. (You keep waiting for Rod Serling’s ghost to emerge and deliver a terse monologue about how we have met the monsters and they are us.) This isn’t to say that Darabont handles this material badly–these scenes to build a certain amount of tension and he and Marcia Gay Harden figure out a way to retain Mrs Carmody’s monstrousness without turning her into a shrill, one-note crank–but he never figures out a way to deploy it in a fresh and relevant manner.

And yet, while “The Mist” kind of whiffs it as a grand social statement about the human condition, it does work fairly well as a cheerfully unapologetic monster movie. In this regard, Darabont does a fine job of honoring the traditions of the past–keeping the major monsters, save for the occasional deadly mandible, for as long as possible, casting familiar faces instead of big-name stars and giving us a pair of would-be teen lovers who basically seal their doom with a bit of clandestine nookie–in such a way that if it weren’t for the contemporary levels of gore and profanity (not to mention the color photography–here is a film that fairly screams out to be shot in cheap-o black-and-white), it could have easily played on a long-ago double-bill with the likes of “The Deadly Mantis” or “The Brain From Planet Arous.” At the same time, even those who don’t have a working knowledge of the genre will still be able to appreciate Darabont’s approach to the more horrific material–using a rough-and-ready documentary-style feel, he gets a lot of mileage out of his attack scenes despite the enclosed setting and occasionally comes up with a visual trick (such as a great fake-out involving a seemingly close-up shot of a bug hovering outside a window) that really packs a punch.

In the grand scheme of Stephen King adaptations, “The Mist” doesn’t quite hit the heights of such classics as “Carrie,” “The Shining” and “The Dead Zone” but in the monster-driven scenes, it does a better job of capturing the spirit of King’s work than many of the other attempts. As a allegory of the human condition, it kind of comes up short but as a straightforward monster movie, it is a fairly effective work that should entertain buffs and neophytes alike. It contains some good performances, a lot of nicely effective scare moments and a wild final scene that I predict will be discussed and debated by horror fans for years to come.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16779&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/21/07 00:26:54
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User Comments

10/29/16 morris campbell cool creatures but the downer ending is cheap & harsh they could have ended it differt th 3 stars
3/28/16 Aj wales A good story well told. Unflashy direction. Atmosphere. Ending great - true horror. 5 stars
12/09/13 Martin Spotty throughout, but has horror, fun, depth. take the ending u mainstream pansies 4 stars
8/10/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Good movie, great ironic ending for a Hollywood film. 5 stars
5/08/10 reptilesni Biggest "fuck you very much for watching" ending in a movie ever. 1 stars
3/24/10 mr.mike Most downer ending I've seen in 30 years. Studio had elephant balls! 4 stars
1/10/10 Frenzy To silly 2 stars
10/18/09 auzzie chickie worth watching. the ending was the real attention grabber! 4 stars
7/13/09 cody a freaky movie with some scares, good story , but bad ending in my opinion. 3 stars
5/10/09 Ricky the lesson is not to loose hope... the movie is great and truly underated 5 stars
3/22/09 MP Bartley Make sure you watch the b&w version. Superbly delivers bleak thrills. 4 stars
3/16/09 Sean One of the best movies of 2007. Terrific acting, nicely paced, and an interesting ending. 5 stars
11/20/08 Shaun Wallner Friiggin Awesome!! 5 stars
8/29/08 TreeTiger Great movie... 5 stars
8/08/08 GC One of the best horror/monster movies ever, awesome ending 5 stars
8/08/08 ben dover amazing truly devastating and disturbing ending 5 stars
7/20/08 Ken Great film. Good Ending. People who don't like it probably retarded 5 stars
6/14/08 Don Better than I expected 4 stars
5/31/08 Ron Decent Stephen King movie. NOBODY would have predicted the ending 4 stars
5/29/08 Danny One of the best horror flicks I've seen in a while. 4 stars
5/10/08 James Everyone one in this movie was stupid, from the main good guy to the stupid idiot. 1 stars
5/09/08 Siggie Loved the novella, really enjoyed the movie (which did not screw the story up)! 4 stars
5/04/08 Bnorm Awesome movie. suprisingly nasty too...the jesus freak lady got what she deserved 5 stars
5/02/08 Karrie Millheim I was impressed, I watched it again tonight, the monsters look cool 5 stars
5/02/08 MovieMaster Truly a wonderful adaptation from a great story. Who are, in the end the true monsters? 5 stars
4/27/08 Jayme Isaacs A Classic Masterpiece 5 stars
4/11/08 Jerome OMG this is classic filmmaking/screen adaptation who cares about the music? try thinking! 5 stars
4/08/08 scotty One of the absolute best films of 2007 5 stars
4/06/08 movie buff OMG what am I missing. Too many cliches and too much overacting. Horrible. 1 stars
4/05/08 Paytah It was alright. Kind of long, and the ending sucked. But overall... not bad. 4 stars
4/03/08 MOVIE MASTA Da PHANTASTIC This shit was off the hook son 5 stars
3/29/08 M Underated 4 stars
3/26/08 action movie fan alien.joyhn carpenter,s the thing and now the mist-human nature vs yuchy creatures-true fea 5 stars
3/26/08 Servo Great movie and just a devastating ending. Havent been schocked like that in a while. 4 stars
3/11/08 hostick I loved it but i think the music was awful at the end!!! 4 stars
2/15/08 Jimbo Unreal movie, best King movie in years, the ending was great, pity the dimwits cant get it. 4 stars
2/07/08 C. Despite the questionable effects/graphics, the incredible social dynamics blew my mind. 4 stars
1/20/08 matthew oh man what a fucked ending. brilliant film, probably the best King adaptation 5 stars
12/26/07 Jack An instant horror classic. Not torture-porn. There's a difference and this film nails it. 5 stars
12/18/07 Tory Seriously, how could you like this movie, and not I am Legend. Seriously?. . . 2 stars
12/16/07 Tom Servo Good to have you back Mr.King 5 stars
12/14/07 John Anthony Worth seeing despite the ending. Why didn't they just get some gas? 4 stars
12/10/07 Ole Man Bourbon Good ending, good action, bad dialogue. Pretty broad in terms of metaphor. 3 stars
12/03/07 ES I really enjoyed it, it's a great movie 4 stars
12/02/07 mtop completely incredible film, the best ive seen all year Stephen king has done it once again 5 stars
12/02/07 Grigory So bad 1 stars
12/01/07 Jonathan Rhoades I liked the film all except for the gawd awful music toward the end. That kills the movie 3 stars
11/27/07 Luisa Suspenseful, entertaining and disturbing...what horror films should be! 5 stars
11/26/07 Dan Rugg One of the best Stephen King films yet!!! 5 stars
11/26/07 Darkknight21c Good film. But..the rationalists at the end display the most irrationality. Think about it. 4 stars
11/25/07 Rogue Gallart How it ends... well, I couldn’t move from my seat, I was that blown away by the power of it 5 stars
11/25/07 Danielle Ophelia The soldier's death was the most disturbing scene by far. 4 stars
11/25/07 AJ Muller Not anti-religion, but anti-fanatic. Phenomenal and shocking. A classic. 5 stars
11/24/07 Rogue Gallart The last 10 minutes of the movie is cinematic history! 5 stars
11/24/07 Brian Mckay a faithful adaptation of the novella, except for the pull-no-punches ending (it's better!) 4 stars
11/23/07 Jim the Movie Freak One of the year's very very best films 5 stars
11/22/07 dalafa Just saw this movie tonight, when the siren goes off at the beginning I was hooked. 4 stars
11/21/07 VLTampa Abandon Hope All Who Enter! 4 stars
11/21/07 Ron20003 Not enough monsters. Too much talking! Sucky ending 1 stars
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  21-Nov-2007 (R)
  DVD: 25-Mar-2008



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