Monday, April 07, 2008

The Mist

"The end of times has come. Not in flames, but in mist."

Written & Directed by: Frank Darabont

Starring: Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, Marcia Gay Harden

My rating: 8/10

Being a huge Stephen King fan and a huge film fan is a frustrating mix, as the two rarely go hand in hand harmoniously. True, Mr King's work has spawned some of the greatest cinema ever (see, Carrie, The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption) but generally speaking, King adaptations usually go for the TV movie standard fare and miss out on the subtleties and heart of the source material. Luckily, The Mist, although certainly campy and full of B-movie tackiness, really focusses on the heart that Stephen King gives the story in his own novella.

The film centres around a bunch of small-town characters trapped together in a supermarket as an evil mist descends upon the town, carrying inside it mythical monsters of all shapes and sizes. Among the townspeople are level-headed everyman/action hero at a push David Drayton (Thomas Jane), and crazy God lady Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) who spits hellfire and damnation and demands that everybody repent and turn to God. The rest of the inhabitants are clearly defined stereotypes who do and say all the things expected in a horror movie.

The dichotomy between crazy God lady and the other townspeople is pivotal to this film's refreshing originality. At the start, she is yet another horror-movie stereotype and merely causes people to groan and roll their eyes. However, this soon changes and she slowly gains power until the townspeople are split into two factions, Mrs Carmody's people who have faith in God's mercy and refuse to look for rescue and David Drayton's people who refuse to wait in the supermarket to die.

The two sides clash and things turn ugly, leading to a third act that goes in a bold and unique direction and ends in the most startling and downright cruel way imaginable.

Director Frank Darabont, although not usually affiliated with the horror genre (despite a stint as a writer on A Nightmare on Elm Street 3) does a fantastic job scaring the pants off his audience and also, keeping their brains functioning throughout. He even manages to turn this B-movie into a thought-provoking and morally brave parable, in an ironic twist on the tagline from his other masterpiece The Shawshank Redemption..."Fear can hold you prisoner, hope can set you free".

I recommend this film very highly. Despite a few very very dodgy-looking CGI tentacles and winged beasts, this film is an interesting study of morality and the human condition as well as a really fun little horror flick.

- Charlene Lydon 7/4/08

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