[NOTE: I'm not spoiling the ending.] While writing this post, I started to question myself. Why do I like this movie so much? Why do I still even like to watch certain horror movies? Isn't it a juvenile genre to be interested in? What does that say about me? This movie touches on one of my favorite themes: the fragility of the social contract, and what happens when an unexpected event causes society to break down.
Then I realized, hey, this isn't about ME. This is about The Mist, a FANTASTIC creepfest creature feature, which I'm sure you know is based on a Stephen King novella of the same name. The story appeared in his short story collection Skeleton Crew back in 1985. The Mist has always been one of my favorite pieces of King's writing. For one thing, it's short. The man tends to get long-winded, and he was especially long winded back in the 80s (remember It? 1100+ pages!). The movie is pretty much a faithful adaptation, conveying the same characters, themes and events. There are some changes, but it's all for the good of telling the story in 2007 America. The strange thing is, things haven't really changed all that much in this country since King wrote his story more than 20 years ago.
One of the things that makes the Mist a great movie is the creature factor. There are many "oh shit" and "ewww" moments in this flick. The creatures are pure fantasy but rooted in real world biology...they are bizarre and scary. One of my biggest fears is suddenly finding myself somewhere other than at the top of the food chain. This movie definitely exploits that fear. Some of the CGI in the movie is a bit obvious, but for the most part it works because the creatures aren't anything we've seen on Earth...but you can kind of buy them being real, somewhere, because most of them look like things we recognize: insects, crabs, etc. They're just on a different, decidedly more threatening scale.
Another thing that makes this movie work is the excellent acting. Thomas Jane is a perfect leading everyman...somewhat idealized, a natural leader, pretty much possessing the qualities that most Americans like to think they possess. The cap above is from a scene in which his son begs him not to carry out a plan to go out into the mist to get to the pharmacy for medication. It broke my heart, and you can just feel that kid's panic at the thought of losing his dad. Marcia Gay Harden is also wonderful as the local evangelical religious nut. It would have been easy to make her character a cartoon, but she plays it straight and the character is treated with respect as a person of faith, however misguided she may be. Not one cast member sucks in this movie. They are all excellent, down to the smallest speaking part.
Everyone who worked on this flick deserves a pat on the back. The direction, the way it's shot, the creatures, the actors, everything just gels. And of course, the one person who deserves the most credit is Stephen King. He puts a bunch of Americans together in such a banal setting, a supermarket, so that when the shit hits the fan and things start to go bad, much of the ridiculousness of our daily lives is hilighted just by the setting.
This isn't one of those flicks that has you jumping out of your seat with in your face scares. It's more the concept that is horrifying, the sense of dread at what's happened and how the characters are going to get out of it, if they even can. Like I said before, there are many "Ewww!" moments. A note about the ending: I had heard that this is one of those movies with "an ending," and even knowing that, I was still blown away. So will you be.
In the tradition of many of the greatest horror flicks, this movie fucks with your preconceived notions, your expectations, your mind. I highly recommend it.
There's one unintentionally funny bit about this flick, but you'll probably notice it yourself. I'll just say one word: eyebrows.