Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Mist (Review)

Frank Darabont, writer/director of two of the best and most successful Stephen King adaptations ever has teamed up with the man from Maine a for a fourth time to adapt his novella The Mist for the big screen…he should’ve stopped at 3.

Actually the film, for all but the final reel, is a capable if hackneyed creep fest with several solid scare moments. Every character is set up in seconds…they are stock and thus don’t need any fleshing out. There is the manly hero with a heart & his very unmanly child, the antagonistic neighbor/judge up from NYC for the weekend, the town crazy woman, the local yokels of limited intelligence, the new woman in town, the take-no-shit grandma, the marines, the young kid with bravado, the girl next door, the store manager with authority and the local clerk with some very helpful skills in his past and you’ve seen them all before. This being a movie about supersized bugs… you shouldn’t really expect much more and they all, to a one, make dumb decision after dumb decision in the way that makes you want to call back at the screen (and many did…it was a good audience) as if they could hear you. The film tries to touch on social issues and psychology with these characters but its so hyperbolic that that it can't come up with anything of use to say.

So the mist comes in and everyone is trapped in a grocery store. One woman has to leave to get to her kids and she goes into the mist and we hear screams. After a scene in the loading doc where we first glimpse the creatures and someone dies they realize their predicament and the cliques form. The film then becomes a battle between the crazy woman (Marcia Gay-Harden) who proclaims herself a prophet and reads fitting lines from revelations, the judge (Andre Braugher) and his hatred for the townies and the hero (Thomas Jane) and the sane people who are trying to find a solution.

There is one perfectly unnerving scene during their first night when the giant flying bugs come and start to land of the store’s plate glass window that is the highlight of the film but once the window breaks the succession of genre clich├ęs becomes unbearable. After this, Harden’s overbearing preaching holds sway for much of the film and naturally the simpleminded folk join her fold leading to more death and showing us how terrible people can be without the restrictions of society. Finally, after a large confromtation, Jane escapes with his son and a handful of others, hops in his 70’s era Land Rover with 15 or so lights (looks really cool in the mist) and exits the parking lot while the lights wash over the faces.

If only the film had ended here. Instead we get this montage with an oppressive new age chant played at ridiculous levels and an ending that while screaming pathos rings cynical and hollow. This desperate attempt to rip your emotional core is just pathetic given the film that came before it and it is a total disconnect with the goofy interdimensional invasion plot. Why this grand attempt is here I have no idea – it was not in the novella from what I’ve read and feels like Darabont was just tired of people criticizing his tendency toward sap that he felt he would go completely in the other direction – neither work. Oh, and on top of this the woman who walked out is alive and well despite the earlier implication making the whole brutal stand in the store a useless exercise. This was one time when an ambiguous ending would’ve been perfect but instead it makes you realize that you will never get that 127 minutes back.

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