If I didn't know better, judging by the title, I'd say a new horror film called The Mist might just be a throwback to the
campy slasher flicks of the early 1980s. It sounds suspiciously like a new name for yet another remake of John Carpenter's
classic, The Fog. Well, The Mist is neither cheesy nor remade. In fact, it's a very simple title for a complex and intriguing
tale that's more about humanity than a bunch of monsters.
Based on a novella by Stephen King, the worst electrical storm on record has a small coastal Maine town assessing the damages to their homes and businesses. Locals have flocked to the town's only grocery store to stock up on supplies while police, fire, and military personnel blanket the surrounding area. As a result of the storm, everything is out -- power, phones, and radios; the town is cut-off from the rest of the world. Oh, and the storm has also left behind an ominous mist that quickly shrouds the town, trapping those inside the grocery store when it appears that bloodthirsty, inhuman monsters are lurking outside. Article continues below
Panic and confusion set off inside the store over what to do next. Three distinct groups begin to emerge: 1) those that want to find a safe means to escape, led by painter and family man David Drayton (Thomas Jane
); 2) those that choose not to believe there's anything evil in the mist, led by David's neighbor, Brent Norton (Andre Braugher
); and 3) those that embrace the chaos, believing the world is coming to an end, led by the religious zealot Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden
With the emergence of these groups, The Mist transcends normal horror movie conventions and becomes an enlightening study of
religion, class, and human nature in the face of tragedy. People once friends and neighbors suddenly become enemies because
of the group they've chosen. David and the maintenance crew clash over how to fix the store's backup generator. David insists
that the crew shouldn't risk their safety by going onto the store's roof to fix it, but the crew proceeds because only they
(and not David) have the skills and training to make the right decisions.
Later, Brent and David clash when a bloodied David tries to describe the abominable creature with sharp tentacles that attacked the maintenance crew as they tried to fix the generator. Brent believes David fabricated the story as retaliation for a lawsuit Brent filed against him several months back. All the while, the insufferable Mrs. Carmody is gaining support amongst the scared with her doomsday preaching and calls for expiation and human sacrifice of those whom she believes are at fault.
Initially a safe haven from the threat outside, the grocery store then becomes a bigger liability. Writer-director Frank Darabont
does a tremendous job building and sustaining the suspense both inside and outside the store. The monsters lurk quietly in the mist, never totally visible until Darabont decides to thrust an attack upon us at the most unanticipated moments. Once the immediate threat from the mist has subsided, and before the next one arrives, Darabont turns on the tension within the store as the forces battle over complex societal issues and right approach to dealing with the situation.
For The Mist, the monsters are only a small part of the larger supporting cast. Although never fully exposed or explained,Darabont's terrifying creatures can best be described as flies, spiders, and other inserts on steroids-- 10 times their normal size, with razor sharp teeth and penetrating claws. As the hero, Thomas Jane is a believable everyman with whom we can all identify. He's not overly strong or domineering; he just wants to do the right thing for his family and others. The most frightening character of all may be Harden, whose self-righteous, apocalyptic cries for atonement are more piercing and menacing than the savage flesh eating beasts of the mist.