November 21, 2007

The Mist

My god, it's the ghost of Richard Bachman.

Grade: B –
Starring: Thomas Jane, Andre Braugher, Laurie Holden, Toby Jones, and Marcia Gaye Harden
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hour, 7 minutes

Depending on what you’re looking for, The Mist might be one of the best films of the year or one of the worst. What is certain is that, as an indictment of fractured humanity and—all together now—post-9/11 paranoia, writer-director Frank Darabont’s third adaptation of a Stephen King story (after The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile) comes about three or four years past the point of relevance.

A strange fog envelopes a small Maine village and carries with it strange, blood-thirsty creatures. A band of townsfolk, led by movie-poster artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane), barricade themselves inside a local supermarket to escape the grisly invaders. However, the group’s preconceived prejudices and distrust devolves into social fragmentation and a slow devolution into anarchy, wherein the dangers within the store become almost as perilous as those outside it.

The influences at work here are voluminous, from H.F. Arnold’s short story Night Wire to King’s own "The Dark Tower" comic series An ad poster in Drayton’s studio for John Carpenter’s The Thing suggests an obvious nod to Carpenter’s The Fog. The store-bound infighting evokes an extended version of the diner scene in Hitchcock’s The Birds, even down to the ascension and influence of the local town religious zealot (Marcia Gaye Harden, in full-blown crazy-mode).

Yet, for all his recent acclaim, Darabont also once scripted such horror schlock as The Fly II and The Blob. While tautly constructed and full of thought-provoking potential, The Mist’s presentation is too stagy and lurching, the performances too leaden and the dialogue too predictable. The most depressing ending since Open Water and perhaps the original Night of the Living Dead sends you away with a jolt but hardly expands on the film’s underdeveloped themes. Moreover, it is hard to sell a searing denunciation of mankind’s penchant for self-destruction when there are literally all stripe of satanic spawn playing And Then There Were None with your friends and neighbors.

Neil Morris

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