I just got back from The Mist a while ago. Matt and I met up at the dollar theater here in Ames to see yet another movie that neither of our wives have the slightest interest in seeing. It's become quite a tradition, one that I hope continues for some time to come.
Anyway, I remember reading "The Mist" about a decade ago. It's a Stephen King novella that is in his anthology Skeleton Crew. The basic plot consists of a motley crew of people trapped in a grocery store after a supernatural mist rolls in. Taking a lesson from The Fog and realizing that fogs and mists in and of themselves are not all that scary, King places some of the most god-awful creatures in that mist, creatures that feed on anyone unlucky enough to be out in the mist.
But what "The Mist" is really about is fear and what it can do to a group of people. As a friend of mine pointed out to me in e-mail the other day upon hearing that I was going to be going to this movie, there are many points in the movie that bring to mind the episode of "The Twilight Zone" called "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street." It does this because while the monsters outside the grocery store are hideous and lethal, it is perhaps the mob mentality and fear inside the store that is more deadly.
So frequently, movies like this go for laughs, and while there were some humorous moments (and surprisingly enough, not that many of the unintentional kid), it mostly took it's source material seriously and treated it with respect. But more than that, it was equal parts social commentary, B-level monster movie and character study. Not at all what I was expecting, but let me tell you how that was INFINITELY more interesting than a monster movie or a gore fest. Not that there wasn't gore in the movie. There were gory moments in the movie that would do a zombie movie proud.
There are a lot of good performances in this movie, but the standout is, without a doubt, Marcia Gay Harden as a Bible-beating lady quietly spoken of as crazy prior to the arrival of the mist. Once the carnage begins and she starts talking about the end times, people begin to take her seriously. She functions well as a living and breathing antagonist, one that is not hidden by the mist but is present in three dimensions. In many ways, she is as threatening to the protagonists as the monsters.
Speaking of the monsters, I have to say that I was amazed at how good the effects were considering it probably had not much of a budget for effects. They also must have read my mind because many of the monsters living in the mist were exactly as I pictured them when reading the novella.
Much has been made of the ending, which is substantially different from King's original ending. Without giving too much away, Matt and I kind of looked at each other after it was over and, well, I'm not sure how we felt about it, other than it came from completely out of left field and I think we were both sideswiped by it. I would never dream of spoiling it here for those who will eventually see it.
The Mist was probably the best adaptation of a Stephen King story that I have ever seen, and of all the movies that Matt and I have seen on the cheap at the dollar theater (Halloween and 30 Days Of Night being the others), it was far and away my favorite. The fact that it functioned so well on several levels, that it was more than just a horror film with rubber creatures and CGI monsters makes it worth seeing. It's not often in movies like The Mist that we end up giving a shit about the characters, but here, we really did. If we hadn't, the ending wouldn't have been half as effective as it was.
So check it out, it's on DVD on March 25th. But don't say I didn't warn you about the ending.