Friday, November 30, 2007

The Mist - mini-review

Frank Darabont gets my vote for most successful adaptions of Stephen King's works - which are notoriously difficult to adapt (Sometimes They Come Back, anyone?). Sure, I thought DePalma's Carrie was a bucketful of fun, Kubrick's The Shining gave me nightmares (creepy little twin girls in creepy giant hotels) and Rob Reiner's Stand By Me (from King's novella The Body) is lovely. But those were one-shots by accomplished directors. Darabont has come up with a solid trifecta: The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and now The Mist, which makes him plenty accomplished in my book.

The Mist, set in a small town in Maine (surprise), is the story of what happens to people placed in extreme circumstances. In this case, the circumstances are getting trapped in a grocery store when a strange fog rolls into town ... and horrific beasties roll right in with it. The CGI beasties are okay but not great - I've read that there wasn't a very big budget for this movie and that's where it comes out. There's violence and blood (although torture-porn fans won't be impressed) and some icktastic deaths.

Darabont's cast is, for the most part, right on the money. Ollie, the assistant store manager, is a great character, forthright, brave and a surprisingly good shot. Thomas Jane's tragic hero is wonderful: he's human, he gets tired and terrified and is slightly confused when the others start looking to him for leadership. (Plus he drives a damn cool old Toyota Landcruiser - I covet that truck.) Marcia Gay Harden's character, Mrs. Carmody, is by far the most terrifying thing in the whole movie. A religious fanatic, she whips most of the store refugees into a frightened mob. (SPOILER - when Ollie finally shoots her, someone in the back of the theater shouted "Yes!" END SPOILER) The reason you want to see this movie is for the people - how they deal with terror, how they interact, what they change into under duress. What would you - or I - do in this situation? Try to fight no matter what? Hunker down and hope for rescue? Place faith in a higher power? Fall in with the panic and persecute a scapegoat? It's really scary stuff.

The ending has been changed from King's original story and man, is it bleak. Some purists will, of course, take issue with the change but I, a huge Stephen King fan, did not. Darabont's ending is ghastly (in a good way) and haunting. Nothing jumps, nothing gushes or oozes or rips. It's just harsh.

Finally, I'd like to report that seeing The Mist has gotten me a new little crush on Thomas Jane. The man is very pretty. He and Nathan Fillion should be put in a movie together. With puppies and a lot of chocolate. I'd pay good money to see that.

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