Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Movies: Stephen King's The Mist

• The Mist is a crown jewel compared to many King adaptations.

Genre: Horror, sci-fi, adaptation
Director: Frank Darabont
Run time: 2:05
Cast: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, Frances Sternhagen, Nathan Gamble
Verdict: &&&&1/2

There's plenty of fodder to argue that Stephen King sometimes wants for originality, but Stephen King's The Mist is too well-crafted a movie to even go there. If it weren't for 30 Days of Night a few weeks ago, I'd be calling this the best horror movie since The Ring, although, like the most successful King adaptations, it succeeds by focusing as much on the human elements of the story as on the supernatural. With The Mist, Director Frank Darabont, who also helmed The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, has crafted one of the truly great King adaptations and possibly made it even more enjoyable than the original novella from the Skeleton Crew collection, which had a verve lacking in many of King's latter-day short stories. The tale takes place in a small Maine town where a severe storm is followed by a thick, creeping mist. David Drayton (Thomas Jane), his young son and his combative neighbor set out to the local grocery for supplies after the storm. While there, the fog settles in just as an old man bleeding from the nose runs in shouting about "something in the mist" taking a man. It is here that Darabont expertly seizes the potential of the story: The grocery contains a motley crowd of folk who are now isolated together, and, as they are tested, their worst traits rise to the surface — it becomes Survivor: Food Mart. The first time we glimpse what's in the mist, it verges on hokey, but the movie continually picks up steam from there, and the later encounters with what lurks in the mist are incredibly intense, action-filled, edge-of-your seat nail-biters. Those segments are brilliantly woven with the character drama. While coping with fear and the injured, the group must also contend with Mrs. Carmody (perfectly pegged by Marcia Gay Harden) — a nagging yet solicitous bible-thumper who immediately begins to spout scripture and predictions of doom. Initially met with guffaws and derision, Mrs. Carmody becomes a powerful figure as the situation increasingly descends to hopelessness (the movie's tagline, "Fear changes everything," is oh-so perfect). The story becomes as much about the way people divide themselves and cling to any hysterical shred of hope as it is about the supernatural and unknown — it is about the horrors of the human mind, which King often captures with rare insight. An engaging cast of actors such as Laurie Holden (The X-Files' mysterious Marita Covarrubias) supports Jane as a strong lead, the family man trying desperately to hold it all together and comfort his terrified son. A relentlessly dark movie all the way to the bitterly cold ending, Stephen King's The Mist is a jewel among the King adaptations and an absolute must-see for anyone with an interest in the genre.

// DID YOU NOTICE? // A couple of bonuses for loyal King fans include a prominent shot of a painting of The Dark Tower and the gunslinger in the opening scene and the presence of the great Frances Sternhagen, who played the sheriff's wife in Misery, as Irene, a retired teacher who is among those hiding in the store.

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