A horror film not to be mist
THE MIST Directed by Frank Darabont. Starring Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher, Laurie Holden, Frances Sternhagen 16 cert, gen release, 127 min WHEN Stephen King first experienced success as a novelist, he granted aspiring film-makers the rights to adapt his short stories for the cost of a dollar each. Frank Darabont was 23 and developing his first screenplays when he accepted that offer. In 1983, he wrote and directed a half-hour film based on King’s short story, The Woman in the Room.
Darabont’s subsequent career as a director is inextricably linked with King’s fiction. His first two features were The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999), were both set in prisons, their narratives rooted in humanism.
Darabont returns to King for his fourth feature. The Mist also takes place primarily within an enclosed location, this time a supermarket in a rural area of King’s native Maine, and just when it seems like the end of the world as we know it.
The Mist opens on ominously bad weather. When an electrical storm cuts the power lines, David Drayton (Thomas Jane), an illustrator, takes his young son (Nathan Gamble) from their lakeside home to stock up essential supplies, arriving as the town is enveloped in a mysterious mist. Huge, hideous tentacled creatures are lurking in the fog, courtesy of a diligent special effects department, but Darabont is more concerned with the response of the humans inside the store.
As is de rigeuer for the genre, the shoppers and staff represent a remarkably diverse cross-section of society, all drawn as stock stereotypes, and the consequences suggest a transposition of Lord of the Flies to a retail milieu. Inevitably, some dispensable minor characters will react foolishly, only to be chewed up by the monsters.
In the movie’s most entertaining performance, Marcia Gay Harden chews up the scenery as a religious zealot who actually advocates serving up a human sacrifice to appease the beasts at the door.
Yes, this is another bleak view of the human race when it comes to matters of self-preservation, and that is sustained to the movie’s resolutely bitter end.
Running over two hours, The Mist is actually Darabont’s shortest feature to date. To its credit, a lot more happens than in the similarly themed The Happening. But evidently unaware of the maxim that less is more, Darabont allows the movie to ramble, dissipating the atmosphere. MICHAEL DWYER
Mystifying: trapped in the fog