Audiences Get Lost in ‘The Mist’

Many of Stephen King’s novels have been adapted for the screen, ranging from the bad (“Cujo”) to the the mediocre (“Children of the Corn”) to the classic (“The Shining”). “The Mist” is another such adaptation, taken from King’s novella of the same name. Set in a quiet town in Maine “The Mist” is the tale of a strange mist that suddenly covers the town. David Drayton (played by a committed Thomas Jayne), a husband and father, makes a trip to the supermarket with his son and neighbor where, out of the rolling mist, runs a bloodied man screaming into the supermarket that “they’re in the mist.”

The first thing noticeable about “The Mist” is the dialogue. The characters speak very much in the way of a novel, where the lines are all properly scripted out in order to advance the plot rather than seem as if they came directly from human emotion. In other words, it just feels so scripted. However, there are some sparks of life in the script. The bad thing is that it is the secondary characters who get the best lines, especially Irene (a feisty and funny Frances Sternhagen) and Ollie Weeks (scene-stealer Toby Jones). The rest of the script is dragged down by the movie wanting to be more than it is. What is advertised in trailers and commercials is a pure horror/suspense movie, like “Silent Hill.” What we actually get is a film that has its moments of horror, but also is a study of how humans—when left to their own devices in times of desperation—are as dangerous as monsters themselves. This is mainly portrayed through Marcia Gay Harden’s role as Mrs. Carmody, an overzealous Christian evangelist who claims that the strange mist is part of God’s punishment for the evils of humans and goes to great and terrifying lengths to prove her point. Harden admirably plays what must be the most reviled person in the movie, and—without attaching any spoilers—the whole audience clapped at one point and laughed at many others.

What characterizes the whole film is that it feels like a big-budget SciFi Channel movie, complete with fade-outs where commercial breaks would have been placed. The CGI for the monsters is also rather unremarkable, making the creatures themselves rather laughable. According to interviews with the makers of the film, the CGI is said to be made purposefully B-movie quality to emulate that of legendary Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animations (“Seventh Voyage of Sinbad” being perhaps his most famous) so that the creatures looked like they were from a reality different from our own for some purpose or other that is not perfectly clear unless you read it straight from the director/screenplay adaptor Frank Darabont. However, if you are the average moviegoer that goes to watch a movie in order to have a good time, you probably would not read interviews before watching the film and thus miss the point entirely and feel disappointed. It all comes off as somewhat pretentious. The camerawork—supplied by FX’s “The Shield” camera crew—is shaky, but cannot decide if it wants to have a cinematic feel or a raw, documentary feel, complete with blocked shots by the actors and shots that are still focusing in some areas. The whole movie seemed to have the same elements as another of Stephen King’s adaptations “The Langoliers.” Both movies feature a motley crew of characters that have their own kind of quirks, both movies feature an unexplainable phenomenon (which is later explained, but still extraordinary), bad CGI, and—in some instances—ham-fisted acting. The only difference is that one was made in 1995 for TV while the other one just looks and feels like it.

There is also much to be said about the twist ending that is “love it or hate it” but after the whole movie with its odd and uneven pacing, some will just want it to end.

“The Mist” has some bright spots in its characters and in its non-CGI special effects (specifically, the special effects makeup), but overall is nothing better than a second-rate television movie with low-key scares and slight suspense to record for entertainment on a lazy rainy day.