What a great piece of work this film is. The Mist is not only a great horror movie; it’s a great human drama as well. This horror movie was approached by director Frank Darabont in the correct way: humans, their character and personalities first, external tormentor second. The Mist took some of the best parts of The Host and Cloverfield, the human element, expanded on it totally and let all the characters breathe throughout its run time. Multiple characters in The Mist mature or go through personality changes. The situation in The Mist is very much like the one found in John Carpenter’s The Thing, a film that is referenced in the first forty-five seconds of The Mist. You have to pay attention for it though. I love The Thing, have seen it multiple times and noticed the on-screen reference immediately. When I spoke of the situation, I was not referring to “the thing” in The Thing. I am talking about the isolation in that film and how it positively and negative affected the personalities of the characters. The mist and the isolation are the inciting incident. The isolation, the fear it generates and what happens because of that fear are the true monsters in The Mist. Taken one step further, the monsters born in the grocery store during The Mist are the latent monsters in all of us. This is also what makes The Mist standout. It all comes down to the film’s focus on the human element. Cloverfield centered its focus on this though The Host did it better. In certain instances, The Mist excellences past them both in this area.
After a storm and property damage has been sustained around a small town community, a local painter named David Drayton (Thomas Jane) decides to go to the local grocery store. He brings along his son Billy (Nathan Gamble) and neighbor/lawyer Brent Norton (Andre Braugher), whom he has a contemptuous relationship with. In the grocery store, David and Brent meet many of The Mist’s supportive cast, but none have greater importance to the film than religious Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), Assistant Manager Ollie Weeks (Toby Jones) and a mechanic named Jim Grondin (William Sadler).
Once the mist actually strikes, an earthquake rumbles and the film’s characters are isolated, cut off and terrified, the pressure begins pushing against their personalities, causing some to buckle, changing a few of them while bolstering others. People begin doing things that a few hours ago would have been unimaginable to them. People begin breaking down, crying, looking for answers and salvation from wherever they can get them, even if they may come from overtly religious fanatic with delusions of higher favor. As the people in the grocery store are attacked and emotionally battered, bravado is dropped, the steady personalities reveal themselves and so do the weak ones. Mob mentality, bolstered by charismatic leadership begins to infect and prevail over the majority of the people in the film.
It is when these events begin to unfold that The Mist reveals itself to be much more than a horror movie, more than a survival film. The Mist, at its heart and soul, is about the human condition. What people can do or be turned into during adverse or extraordinary situations. It is only the top-tier horror movies that actually consider this aspect of humanity and include it in their screenplays. Films like Seven do this, Signs, countless others. If you’ve read Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, you’ve seen an intimate tale of this first hand.
The ending to The Mist is outstanding. It is one of the best orchestrated, risky, vastly impactful and appropriate endings I have seen since Million Dollar Baby. It’s that good and you never see it coming. It’s a great ending to an impressive horror film. Frank Darabont is three for three when it comes to directing Stephen King adaptations. First, The Shawshank Redemption, then The Green Mile and now The Mist. Technically, The Mist is Darabont fourth king adaptation but the short film The Woman in the Room hasn’t been widely seen. Darabont’s The Mist is a great piece of work and like The Shawshank Redemption, did not do well during its theatrical run. I believe this was do to the B-movie nature of The Mist’s trailers and commercials. What is special about The Mist was wisely kept out of them so that when you actually see the film, you are given something you never expected from the film. Real human drama and a breath of fresh air. Here’s hoping The Mist is given new life and recognition like Shawshank was when it hit DVD and the cable networks. The Mist deserves it.
One more thing of note about The Mist are the special effects, especially in the third act of the film. The effects actually get better as the film progresses, along with many other things. The creatures combined with the mist effects are really well done. I was literally staring at one shot as were the characters in the The Mist at the scope of a particular something. The score in the third act also makes its presence felt, driving home the emotion of certain key scenes, making them even more heart-felt. I recently read that the ending to The Mist was made darker from that of the novella that inspired the film. This actually makes me want to know what was altered. Don’t tell me, I’ll read it myself. It’s always a welcome occurrence when a director does not re-make someone else’s work but creates a new classic with his own two his hands, ingenuity and vision. Bravo Mr. Darabont.