Today’s offering is The Mist (2007.) I was a little worried before I saw this movie. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you know I’m a Stephen King fan. I’ve actually read the novella of The Mist as part of the short-story collection Skeleton Crew. (Off topic but if you find Stephen King’s fiction to be too wordy then you should check out his short-stories. They’re pretty good and brief. “Survivor Type” scarred me emotionally. In a good way.) So I’m a little wary of movie adaptations of King’s work. What can I say? I’ve been hurt before. (It, I’m looking at you.) Plus I’d read some unfavorable reviews. I don’t normally pay much attention to reviews–remember, I like Piranha 3D, The Human Centipede, and Repo! The Genetic Rock Opera. Reading these reviews was a little disconcerting since I cared about the source material. I didn’t have to worry, though, because this was a neat little creature feature that didn’t get as much attention as it deserved.
David Brayton is an illustrator. I started snickering when I saw what he was painting because it was clearly related to the Dark Tower series. I don’t read that but I enjoy finding the King references in King movies.
Thanks for the wink, movie, I think I’m going to like you. David, his wife, and his son, Billy, retreat to the basement to escape a thunder-storm. They wake up with a tree through their plate-glass window and their boathouse smashed by their neighbor, Norton’s, tree. Oh, and there’s an eerie mist crossing the lake.
While this movie is a creature-feature, it’s really about people and what divides them. The neighbor Norton is black, David is white, Norton’s a high-powered attorney from NYC, David’s an illustrator, Norton’s a summer resident, and David’s a local. It’s obvious that there’s been conflict between them before and that there will be more conflict as the stress increases. I’ve seen this theme before in other movies like Lifeboat but I still enjoy the idea. Anyway, David, Billy, and Norton take David’s Land Rover to the grocery store. The movie’s good at creating tension from every day occurences. They can’t get radio reception in the car. Then a power company truck drives by, but that’s pretty normal after a storm. Some army transport trucks go by but there’s a base by the lake. Finally, a whole bunch of army trucks speed by. Watching these seemingly mundane events unfold and the characters’ reactions to them creates a sense of slowly building unease.
In a sequence that’s pretty eerie you see the mist slowly rolling in and covering everything in the parking lot.
One of the locals, Dan Miller, bursts into the store with a bloody nose claiming that something attacked him in the mist. If he’s to be believed then they’re effectively trapped in the store.
They’re trapped in a store, just like Dawn of the Dead only with about ten times as many people. So there are ten times as many chances for conflict. Yay!
The attacks from without act as an effective wedge to start driving people apart. One of the store’s generators gets jammed from the outside. David hears something outside the loading-dock door but the blue-collar workers don’t believe him and send Norm, the bag-boy out to fix it. This leads to the death of the squeaky-voiced teen’s human embodiment.
This is when people start dividing into different groups. David wants to stay put and barricade the store. Norton wants to leave and find rescue. Local religious lunatic Mrs. Carmody wants to–well, I don’t know what she wants. She’s just the kind of person that would be happy if the apocalypse ever came because it would mean that she was right.
Norton leaves and the results are predictable. Holy hell, the bugs are here!
They captured the bugs really well in this movie. I remember reading the story and being so freaked out by how they were described–if I recall correctly they were pale flesh-colored and kind of meaty. Also, huge. There’s even this noise that the film-makers use when they land on the glass, a creepy thump. Ick. (Bugs scare me sometimes but we don’t have to worry about rampaging huge bugs in real life. Bugs need oxygen but they don’t have lungs so air has to diffuse into their bodies. This isn’t as efficient as lungs so they can’t get too big. Just pray that the oxygen levels don’t become too concentrated or else they’ll get huge like in the Jurassic era. But not too huge because then pressure and gravity would crush their exoskeletons. Suck it, arthropods!) Unfortunately, the meaty flies attract these creatures that look like a cross between a pterodactyl, a vulture, and a bat.
I love the creature effects in this movie. The creatures and their attacks look like a good mix of practical and CGI effects. Greg Nicotero, who you remember from my review of Diary of the Dead, worked on the creature design and special makeup. The creatures look and sound realistic and gave me the wiggins. The worst were the spiders that laid their eggs in your still-living body. Oh, and they have acidic webbing that melts clothes and flesh. As if regular spiders weren’t horrible enough.
The plot from here is pretty predictable. As more people die more people turn to Mrs. Carmody. Honestly, is there ever going to be a time when humans can have a crisis without turning to the person spouting the scariest religious stuff? Anyway, the film-makers still maintain a sense of tension despite the familiarity of the plot. I won’t tell you the ending. It’s all over the internet anyway, I spoiled it for myself. I will say that it differs from the novella and is actually darker.
Unlike Diary of the Dead, I think that The Mist reflects our times more accurately even though it was made before Diary. Mrs. Carmody’s sermons could be ripped from any right-winger’s blog. If the words “Kenya,” “birth certificate,” and “mosque” were included it would be right now.
The film is visually pleasing. I expected it to be shot through that blue filter that all the Twilight films seem to be shot through or that sepia tone that some action films use now. You know, the ones that are so gritty and you totally see a bullet moving in slow motion. The colors were actually very saturated, especially in the scenes in the grocery store. It’s like it’s highlighting what a haven the store should be if not for the plate-glass windows and the Branch Davidians inside. The mist itself is pure white and renders everything a muted shadow. We see the smaller creatures up close but we never really see the bigger creatures in detail. They all seem to be insectoid and taken from Tim Burton’s mind circa Batman.
My one major complaint is the music. As the film’s showdown between David and Mrs. Carmody approaches this Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow lament begins. It turns out it’s the band Dead Can Dance. I actually like them, but I think the song distracts from the actual sorrow and scariness of the moment. It might have been better if it were used more sparingly. The song, “The Host of Seraphim,” is quite beautiful but it’s too much. I wish that they had chosen something more subdued, like the organ music accompanying the singing.
Ultimately, I recommend this movie. It was a pretty strong King adaptation that left me pretty tense throughout the film. Plus, it offered me a new surly drunk to replace Hank from
He cracks me up. I want him on my team. My drinking team.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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