The Mist

The Mist ★★★★

The fourth film in my series ‘October Horror Watchlist 2018’.

Finally, a great Thomas Jane movie! Frank Darabont crafts a tense horror-thriller out of a Stephen King story, where have I heard that before? I saw a lot of the Twilight Zone here, it felt like one of those episodes extended to a feature film, and the result is a great example of a character-driven experience at the movies.

It's framed in a simple story. A group of characters are confined to a general store when a sinister mist envelops the town. Anyone who leaves and enters the mist either disappears or gets violently taken by mysterious beings. When paranoia and desperation take over the people, it may not be so safe inside the store anymore...

The film is grounded in reality, mostly consisting of the interactions between the characters and their differing ideologies in how to deal with the situation. It's shot at eye level, and director Frank Darabont never places the camera in a position a person wouldn't be in. It puts you in their perspective, and the conflicts occurring between the characters are as tense as the times when they confront the horror waiting outside.

Then there's a fantastic sense of atmosphere. The tense feeling the film establishes right away with the ominous shots of the lead painting his movie posters. The concept itself is also real and creepy. Most Americans have dealt with fog or mist in their lives, and that innate fear of the unknown motivates the horror well.

In the vein of a lot of Stephen King's stories, it's a little on the nose with its metaphors. The pastor lady is a broad stereotype, and Thomas Jane blatantly states to one of the characters, and therefore the audience, that when you take away the rules and constructs of society, people turn against one another. Yeah yeah, I get it. Some more subtlety in that regard would have been nice.

By taking place in a general store, there's a decent amount of product placement popping up constantly. It's almost exclusively in the background, so it's not necessarily distracting, but I'm the type of guy who notices that sort of thing, and it would have served the movie better if the products were fabricated into fake logos or something.

The special effects are the weakest link. The film has a low budget, and that's well used with the limited locations and obscuring the danger with the mist, but when it's forced to show the monsters they just look terrible. I know practical effects might have been more expensive and time-consuming in this way, and for some of the creatures, it may not have even been possible to do. Still, it takes me out of the film when it looks so bad, and I don't know if they just should have shown less instead. There's also an odd number of digital zooms, which were distracting and made it feel like a tv show.

Unfortunately, I don't think I should say much more, since to me, this is the type of movie that's best to go into blind. I read reviews and even that felt like a little too much information. What I will say is the plot is constructed in a way that makes it unpredictable, and gripping as such. Then of course there's the ending, which takes a lot of risks and does what most other movies wouldn't do. For that alone, I give this movie massive respect. Yet it's the rest that elevates it to a horror classic. Four stars.

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