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The Mist
A great, character-driven horror flick.
The Mist
Thomas Jane Stars in "The Mist."
OPENING WEEKEND: $14,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $48,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

August 6th, 2007: Following a violent thunderstorm, artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and a small town community come under vicious attack from creatures prowling in a thick and unnatural mist. Local rumors point to an experiment called the 'The Arrowhead Project' conducted at a nearby top-secret military base, but questions as to the origins of the deadly vapor are secondary to the group's overall chances for survival. Retreating to a local supermarket, Drayton and the survivors must face-off against each other before taking a united stand against an enemy they cannot even see!

What to Expect: My first thought when I heard "The Mist" was being made into a movie was "Oh no, not another one." Don't get me wrong, I love Stephen King. He is arguably the most imaginable story teller of our generation. The guy has written over two hundred stories, including over fifty novels, with a large percentage of them being really good. Some authors will spend years coming up with ideas and translating those ideas to writing, not King. The man goes for a walk, has a nightmare, goes to the store, or overhears a conversation; practically anything is enough to set his creative mind into motion. However, his great success in story telling has not translated well into box office success. Other than some notable successes like The Stand, The Shining and Shawshank Redemption, most movie adaptations of his work have not been very good. One of the main reasons this happens is that King's monsters are purely imagination and need to remain so. His stories are more about people dealing with extreme situations rather than the situations themselves. Most directors who undertake a King story never really get that, and try to highlight the monsters and the situations rather than how the characters' reaction to what's happening around them. To compound the problem, King allows and even sometimes encourages screenplay writers to change the original work. They in turn take the easy way out and eliminate the difficult psychological aspects of the story. The one director who has proven that he gets King is Frank Darabont who has successfully adapted Shawshank Redemption and Green Mile, earning Oscar nominations for both films. Luckily Darabont is directing The Mist, which is a great short story that needs a great director to turn out well.

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The Mist is a pretty simple concept. It focuses on a group of shoppers that are trapped in a grocery store when a large storm unleashes a thick fog that envelops their small New England town. The fog is full of a variety of monsters and critters that will kill anything that moves. The story is really not about the evil outside but the people inside. In fact, King came up with the idea when he and his son went to a grocery store after a large storm had hit the town he was living in. While looking for hotdog buns, King had visions of "prehistoric, flying creatures" flapping around the store. By the time he was ready to check out, he had his idea. What if I am trapped in this store with all these people and my son? King went home and wrote the story of a man trapped in a grocery store. The people around him begin to break under the stress and their more annoying qualities take hold. There is the egotistic neighbor who thinks he is too rich to be killed. There is the religious woman who thinks that the Gods are mad and need a human sacrifice to be appeased. There are crazy leaders, crazy followers, and everyone goes to the extremes because of the pressure. After a while, you really don't know if what's outside is scarier than what's inside. Obviously, you need to give the protagonist a reason for needing to leave the grocery store, a place that has everything you need to survive. That's the beauty of this story. The director must understand that and film the movie accordingly, and I think Darabont really gets it. According to sources, Darabont did not shy away from the difficult aspects of the story, but ended up changing the ending; those of you who read the story know the original ending is kind of weak. In the end of King's short story, David and Billy (the father and his son), get ahead of the mist, as it continues to expand. Supposedly the new ending brings a lot more closure and reveals what actually happens. King, who has been friends with the director for a long time, loves the new ending.

Darabont and King became friends after Darabont directed The Woman in the Room in 1984, an adaptation of another of King's short stories. King was so impressed with Darabont's work that he made a gentleman's agreement to transfer more of his books to the big screen. Ironically the next work that he wanted to do was The Mist, but everything did not line up right at the time and Darabont decided to go "classy" and made Shawshank instead. That movie was perfectly done becoming an instant classic; unfortunately The Mist had to wait another fourteen years. Well, I like to think of it as a good thing, because it gave him fourteen years to really think about it, so when he was ready to go, it would be perfect.

Darabont had two inspirations for filming this movie. First was the movie 28 Days Later. He really liked how the indy feel of it made the story that much scarier. The second was his work on an episode of "The Shield", which he did right before production started on The Mist. Working on a TV show introduced him to the fast, low budget, gritty, get-it-done style of shooting. He felt it was "extremely liberating", and decided to use this approach for The Mist, going so far as using the show's camera crew to shoot the movie. He felt that "the big-budget gloss would work against the material". He did not want to overload the movie with huge special effects and CGI since it would "destroy the tension". Instead he wanted to go more for the Jaws approach, where the less you see the shark the scarier it actually gets.

When it was time to begin filming, Darabont stayed true to these principles. He went in with an extremely small budget and tight shooting schedule. He did not get any big stars other than Jane (Punisher). Of course, he had to take care of his friends, Brian Libby and William Sadler, who both worked with him on Shawshank and Green Mile. He then herded his cheap cast into a simple grocery store set in Louisiana. One half of the set is the grocery store, the other half is the "outside". The "outside" is actually filled with fog, which was so thick that Darabont had to wire up a speaker system to give instructions to everyone on the set. They went on a marathon shooting schedule, where everyone worked extremely long hours, filming many scenes a day. Darabont would work on shooting all day and then work with the first and second units on editing and effects. The tight schedule really put a lot of stress on the actors, which in addition to intimate knowledge of the set, should be noticeable in the movie and really help reinforce the actual conditions that the characters are experiencing. In the book, a group of people are trapped together by monsters in a grocery store for a long time, on the set a group of actors are trapped together by a mad director in a grocery store for a long time. This created the ideal situation for Darabont to focus on the characters and their pressure-cooked deteriorations rather than the CGI monsters. In fact, only the second unit even worked on the monsters, with Darabont supervising of course. Word on the street is that even though they are pretty unimportant, they are still pretty scary.

Will Darabont's idea of "less is more" actually work? Or will it turn out to be another cheap slasher flicks that ends up becoming a late night rental for stoners to laugh at? Luckily, all early indications are that Darabont has beaten the odds and actually created a great horror movie. Those who have seen it are singing its praises, including Hot Fuzz director and huge King fan, Edgar Wright. Wright got to see an unfinished version of the film and was extremely impressed with the movie and the ending, saying, "Frank Darabont has got an amazing ending, the final payoff is great." So it looks like Darabont truly did make something out of nothing. Maybe next he can make a good adaptation of The Stand, which is my King favorite!

In Conclusion: This looks like a good horror movie that does not use special effects and gore as a crutch. The story and acting must make or break this project. If you are a big fan of Stephen King then you should definitely see this just to see the new ending. Even if you are like me, who mistrusts all Stephen King adaptations , you should still give this movie a shot. It sounds like it is going to be really creepy and the old school approach will be refreshing to see in our CGI ridden movie culture.

Similar Titles: The Fog, Carrie, 28 Days Later
November 21st, 2007 (wide)
March 25th, 2008 (DVD)

The Weinstein Company LLC

Frank Darabont

Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher, Laurie Holden, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Frances Sternhagen, Jeffrey DeMunn

Total: 122 vote(s).


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Rated R for violence, terror and gore, and language.





Stephen King's The Mist at AskMen.com

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