‘The Mist’: All Hail ‘The King’

Thu, 11/29/2007 - 5:07pm
By: Michael Boylan

Many faithful readers of my movie reviews know that I love horror movies. I see a lot of them and most of them are simply passable. Earlier this year, after seeing “Hostel Part II,” I bemoaned the fact that torture movies had taken over the genre and had really (pardon the pun) killed it. It seemed like there were very few original ideas and that horror movies were only concerned with showing horrible image upon horrible image.

Thankfully, the pendulum appears to be swinging away from torture and horror fans. Heck, fans of just good movies can rejoice that someone has made an intelligent and scary movie. It’s called “The Mist” and it is a really good movie.

Is it original?

Well, it is based on a Stephen King short story. It is quite possibly the best short story he ever wrote and the film was written and directed by Frank Darabont, who had previously tackled King’s “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile,” arguably two of the best King adaptations on film.

“The Mist” wastes no time in getting started. A terrible storm comes and wrecks a guy’s house. He leaves for town the following morning with his kid and his neighbor and they notice this strange mist on the lake. Before they can leave the market, the mist has enveloped the town and the artist, now stuck with a collection of other townies and out of towners in the market, learns that there is actually something in the mist (gigantic, insect-like monsters, if you must know).

What follows is a study in human behavior when confronted by fear. Some, like the artist, switch into survival mode. They try to protect people and figure out a way to stay safe and eventually escape their confining predicament. Others like Mrs. Carmody, an unhinged woman with a penchant for Bible-thumping and a desire for human sacrifice, seek to justify what is going on by decrying everything a sign of the End of Days. People flock to both sides and what happens on the inside of the market can be as scary as what is happening outside in the mist.

Unlike the glut of horror movies that come out each year, “The Mist” has a lot of great things going for it. First, the acting is considerably better than most scary flicks. Marcia Gay Harden is awesome as Carmody and could seriously be considered for a supporting actress Oscar and Thomas Jane, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones and Frances Sternhagen all do well in their roles, too. Second, the writing is a million times better than a lot of other horror films. Many of the characters are fully developed, the pacing is good and the dialogue is rich. It’s like an actual movie. Plus, Darabont had a terrific story to work with. It isn’t some rehash of every slasher film ever made.

Perhaps the best thing about the movie is the ending. The ending, which is not as open-ended as King’s original, is so mind-blowing and twisted that King said anyone who reveals it should be hung from the neck until they are dead. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it for you, but believe me, it will blow you away.

I realize horror movies aren’t for everybody, but that is because most horror movies aren’t like “The Mist.” If you say horror movie, people think gore and blood and guys in masks, but “The Mist” is what horror movies could and should aspire to be. Every so often a great one comes along (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “The Sixth Sense”) and they deserve an audience.

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