At The Picture Show
Attack of the cartoon bugs
Something in 'The Mist'? Well, certainly not anything we can take seriously
Director: Frank Darabont
Screenplay: Frank Darabont, based on the novella by Stephen King
Starring: Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher,
Toby Jones, William Sadler, Alexa Davalos and Sam Witwer
Rated R / 2 hours, 7 minutes
Opened November 21, 2007
(out of four)
There's a calm, unknown chaos that washes over the town, its residents and the
audience at the start of The Mist. A night after a raging storm, a thick mist rolls
over, covering everything in sight. For purely logistical reasons if nothing else,
those who innocently stopped by the grocery store that morning cannot get out.
Or is it, will not get out?
That debate is endlessly hashed out as those trapped
inside quickly discover that the mist isn't going away any time soon. Lines are
drawn, people pick sides, and the characters - doggedly clinging to the set traits of
their one-dimensional archetypes - start to wrestle with the nature of belief,
reasoning, faith, skepticism, doubt, fear.
But after that initial sense of foreboding has set in and things have to get moving
along, the film becomes all too easy to read. We know exactly what the Psycho
Bible-Toting Christian Lady (Marcia Gay Harden) is going to say and do. She's all
fire and brimstone. We know exactly what the Skeptic (Andre Braugher) is going
to say and do. He's all stubborn logic - pure doubt about anything out of the
ordinary. (And we know exactly what's going to happen to him, don't we?)
We know exactly what the Reluctant Everyman Hero (Thomas Jane) is going to
say and do. He's the balance between the two - he recognizes the supernatural
force now upon them but is all logic and sound reasoning. He's the Smart one.
It becomes clear that none of the characters will ever change or adapt, and when
they actually have to confront their beliefs and their fears, the results are largely
unsatisfying. As far as I can remember, there's only one real surprise in the film -
and it's not really the event that is surprising, but the timing of it.
The grocery store, naturally, serves as a microcosm of
society, the warring societal factions representing, fairly obviously, opposing sides
of our own socio-political discourse. It's a fine idea, but writer/director Frank
Darabont - in his third Stephen King adaptation after The Shawshank
Redemption and The Green Mile - doesn't go anywhere with his material. Not
even when the giant flesh-eating bugs show up.
How can you screw up giant flesh-eating bugs? I'll tell you how: You craft some
of the worst special effects of the digital era. I'm sure there are plenty of excuses -
maybe the budget was slashed. It happens. Regardless, they're an embarrassment.
They first make their appearance in a scene where giant tentacles slip through the
back door and attack, and it's supposed to be an intense, important scene.
Instead, it can only possibly inspire laughs. When bugs finally break through the
grocery-store windows and wreak havoc, the action sequences are completely
implausible - if an actor, say, swings a mop at one of them, it's completely
obvious that he's not swinging at anything. It's sloppy all-around.
Marcia Gay Harden's performance is almost as awful as the CGI, but the effects
still take the cake. They suggest that The Mist will be remembered only as a campy
B-movie. It'll probably be a hit at Redbox.
(And, by the way, I refuse to even acknowledge the absurd, out-of-the-blue
romantic subplot that suddenly develops only to end in tragedy. I repeat: I will not
I'm a fan of Stephen King's work, though I haven't read
this particular novella. Regardless of whether or not it's "true" to its source
material, the film version goes wrong over and over. Explanations are lame,
characters are flat, and there is one important moment of such phony dramatic
irony that it renders much of what came before essentially meaningless.
There are thought-provoking possibilities here, to be sure, and the makeup of who
survives and who doesn't is interesting, and must be intentional. But again, when
all anyone was "surviving" was attacks by bad CGI bugs, it's hard to take it too
But, in case you were wondering, it's still better than 2005's The Fog.
Read more by Chris Bellamy