FANGO Flashback: “THE MIST”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
In almost a tragic recurring theme in the horror genre, most of the films fright fans consider to be classics of the genre certainly were not received that way initially. Whether it be the many critically-lambasted post-HALLOWEEN efforts of John Carpenter, the direct-to-video dumps of FEAST and TRICK ‘R TREAT or the commercial failures such as THE MONSTER SQUAD and NIGHTBREED, most beloved terror titles have earned their esteemed reputations years, perhaps even decades after the fact. Yet few films have earned their prestigious post-release reputation more than Frank Darabont’s terrifying and tragic adaptation of Stephen King’s THE MIST, which truly has aged like a fine wine in the near-decade since its release.
For those who haven’t yet seen the film or read the novella, THE MIST follows a small town that is suddenly engulfed in a mist following a disastrous storm. With many of the town’s most prominent members stuck inside a local supermarket, tensions begin to rise as talk of killer, potentially supernatural creatures fill many with dread and fear. Soon, the inhabitants take sides between the increasingly desperate and the dangerously faithful, resulting in bloodshed and nightmarish confrontations with the dangerous beasts within the mist.
There may be no living filmmaker who better understands the words and concepts from the mind of Stephen King than Frank Darabont, who once again rises above the material at hand. Darabont brilliantly offers a legitimate sense of character and danger throughout the film, fleshing out even the most minor characters while keeping a careful, unwavering eye on the narrative at hand. Darabont knows what makes Stephen King scary (and goddamn, can THE MIST be scary at times), but he also knows that scares don’t mean a damn if they don’t happen- or come from- a character you know all too well. Unsurprisingly, Darabont succeeds on this front, making it a genuine tragedy when a character you like is killed off, or when things just work out for the worst; a sentiment echoed by the unforgivingly bleak ending that still feels like a clever, twisted kick to the cinematic nuts.
If there’s anything that doesn’t quite age as well as the rest of the film, it would be the CGI (which, unfortunately, replaced many terrifying practical creations seen in set photos), and while the CGI is less distracting in the often-preferred black-and-white version of THE MIST, the theatrical cut has more moments of dodginess at play. Though some CG moments go unscathed, including certain shots of the winged-creature on the ground that offer a significant amount of depth or the Lovecraftian “giant” at the end, most of the CGI just looks off; the result of ambitious designs and a limited budget to bring them to life. That said, the CGI isn’t quite a deal-breaker for the movie, considering the greatest monster in the film is a human antagonist.
Speaking of, in trusted Darabont fashion, the performances in THE MIST are nothing short of phenomenal, no matter the size of the role. While Thomas Jane has rarely been better (save for his sadly underappreciated tour-de-force in STANDER), everyone from Laurie Holden to Sam Witwer to Jeffrey DeMunn to William Sadler to Andre Braugher to Toby Jones to Melissa McBride gets a fantastic moment to shine, which truly helps bring King’s complex ensemble to life. Yet THE MIST wouldn’t quite be as memorable as it is today without the scene-stealing performance from Marcia Gay Harden, an villainous portrayal worthy of an Oscar nomination had it not been associated with the Academy-unfriendly horror genre.
Overall, THE MIST is a goddamn great movie from start to finish with something that every type of horror fan can enjoy. Gorehounds will be pleased by some of the more anatomically correct horror on display, including charred flesh, disemboweled bodies and spiders bursting out of live flesh. Meanwhile, casual horror fans will find bliss in the mix of monster movie madness and survival horror that drives the film’s narrative. And psychological horror fans will be undoubtedly satisfied by the moral breakdown of the characters as well as the infamous, uncompromising ending that will leave new viewers shaken.