Frank Darabont’s suspenseful creature-feature ‘The Mist’ finally does the ‘King’ Justice…
CAST: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeffrey DeMunn, William Sadler, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, Frances Sternhagen, Buck Taylor
Directed by Frank Darabont
Rated 'R' for horror violence, gore, and langauge
Adapted from the Stephen King Novella ‘The Mist’ from his 1985 short-story collection ‘Skeleton Crew’
‘Fear Changes Everything’ is the tagline given to Frank Darabont’s ‘The Mist’, and I cannot recall a more effective and fitting choice of words tied to a specific film in ages.
Taken from Stephen King’s 1985 collection ‘Skeleton Crew’, which I practically devoured while a young Airman stationed in South Korea (my God, has it really been twenty-two years? Gasp…talk about horrors!), ‘The Mist’ has long been rumored for cinematic treatment, only to be pushed aside for less accomplished King works through the years (‘Lawnmower Man’ or ‘Ride the Bullet’ anyone?).
Obviously handing Darabont (‘Shawshank Redemption’, ‘The Green Mile’) the keys to this particular ‘King’-dom was a no-brainer, as the end results are easily the best King Adaptation since the aforementioned Darabont efforts.
The synopsis is as follows: Artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and family awaken to significant damages to their lakefront home following a severe storm. Accompanied by his young son and a cranky neighbor (Andre Braugher) from which he has had less-than-cordial legal dealings in the past, David treks to the local grocery store for supplies, only to find himself trapped with several dozen other locals when a mysterious, foreboding mist envelops the surrounding landscape.
Following the gruesome death of a store employee via a flesh-eating tentacle (the lone less-than-realistic CG shot of the entire film), Drayton tries in vain to explain the inexplicable horror he’d witnessed first-hand while serving only to split the harried group into various factions. While a few unfortunate naysayers wander off into the unknown, departing the relative safety of the grocery’s interior only to pay the ultimate price for such brazen carelessness, local religious zealot and all-around crackpot Miss Carmody (Harden, in a spitfire performance) seizes the opportunity to take control of the weak-minded and cast a spell of biblical doom, going as far as calling for human sacrifice to appease the supernatural forces at play.
As the body count rises and fear, paranoia and desperation become the order of the day, it quickly becomes painfully apparent that the hidden dangers lurking within the whitish vapor aren’t nearly as potentially dangerous as the human factor taking shelter inside.
Other than two distinct scenes, the first set inside the store involving a horde of mutated bugs and the second and easily most chilling taking place in a nearby pharmacy, ‘The Mist’ is less creature-feature than tense, white-knuckle melodrama.
As so brilliantly written in King’s novella, the deranged yet fascinating character that is Miss Carmody leaves much deeper an impression than any and all of the monsters present. The cast as a whole is rock-solid, most notably Toby Jones as mild-mannered store checker slash sharpshooter Ollie Weeks and veteran character actress Frances Sternhagen as a hard-as-nails school teacher, though it is without a doubt Marcia Gay Harden who steals the show as the bile-spewing female equivalent to the Reverend Jim Jones.
Overall, Darabont’s script stays true to King’s apocalyptic vision, with the notable exception being a shocking final scene that is already causing quite the stir, especially among hardcore fans. As a huge advocate of the original story, I’m still not quite sure how to feel about it, though I will admit it packs quite the emotional wallop.
In the end, the best a Stephen King fan of old can wish for is that the filmmakers responsible for bringing the man’s best tales to the screen simply don’t screw it up too badly. In the case of ‘The Mist’, I’d have to state a resounding mission accomplished, as I’d place this effort side by side with such notable adaptations as Carrie, The Dead Zone, and The Shawshank Redemption.
Perhaps it should be set in stone that any and all future King Adaptations be automatically handed to Frank Darabont by proxy just to avoid potential mediocrity. Along those lines, it’s been reported that the next Darabont/King collaboration just might well be ‘The Long Walk’, taken from 1986’s The Bachman books.
Rating – A-