Friday, October 23, 2015

Movie Review: The Mist (2007)

The Mist (2007) written and directed by Frank Darabont based on a novella by Stephen King

A strange mist comes down from the hills and envelops a small New England town. Normally fog would be no big deal, but people who go out into this mist often die with frightening screams. One group is caught in the local supermarket. They would be okay (there's certainly enough food and supplies) except that the local religious nutter, Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), is stirring up trouble by making apocalyptic speeches and pronouncing God's will (i.e. the mist is a punishment for sin). Under normal circumstances, people ignore her as a kook, but kooky things are happening. She seems more credible than she ought to.

Our hero, David Drayton (Thomas Jane), also comes in conflict with his next door neighbor, a big city lawyer who comes up for weekends and is not so personable. They seem to be mending fences when David gives the lawyer a ride into town but things rapidly fall apart in the mist-covered grocery store. Since he's a lawyer, he takes a strictly rational approach to the situation, a nice contrast to Mrs. Carmody's take on the situation. An interesting thematic tension is introduced...and then dropped a third of the way through the film, leaving poor David (and we poor viewers) to deal with Carmody's Crazy Cult. And the creatures out in the mist.

Other interesting themes pop up but go mostly undeveloped. For example, David's eight year-old son is with him in the store. David wants to protect him but also deal with the situation. The son is quickly reduced to a minor plot device rather than an actual character. Town new-comer Amanda is a third-grade teacher who helps out with the boy and discusses the situation with the dad and his group of helpers. She is optimistic about human nature and doesn't think Carmody is going to get any traction. All the other guys in the discussion (and yes, everyone else is male in that discussion) say that people are bad and/or dumb and they need to make a plan to deal with her or escape, maybe both. Amanda is proven wrong and quickly steps in line with everyone else, leaving another interesting theme or contrast under-developed.

The monsters in the mist are interesting but again are undeveloped. There are different types of creatures, each with odd and unnatural powers and behaviors. No cohesive explanation for them is even attempted by the film--the powers seem randomly chosen to add jump scenes and more gore to the movie. Certainly a horror movie doesn't have to explain everything, but here it just seems like more undeveloped ideas thrown in.

What should have been a tight, claustrophobic horror film turns out to be a thematic mishmash that ends unsatisfactorily for both the characters in the film and the viewers of the film. It's a shame because the film has material for three or four good horror films. Making this into a mini-series would have been much better.

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