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Like a punch in the gut
by Asa Butcher
2009-01-28 09:53:47
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The Mist
Directed by Frank Darabont
2007, Dimension Films/MGM

The final credits have just finished rolling on Frank Darabont's The Mist and I am numb, totally numb and unable to head to bed before my nerves have had a chance to regroup and reboot. My plan was to review The Shawshank Redemption in honour of director Frank Darbont's 50th birthday today and indulge myself in one of my all-time favourite films, but instead my hand plucked The Mist from the shelf and now I am shell-shocked and, dare I admit it to you all, a little misty-eyed from the ending.

Let's back up a bit... The Mist is the third Stephen King novel/novella that Frank Darabont has converted to the screen. His first was the slow-burning mega hit The Shawshank Redemption, which has an ending that makes grown men weep; the second was The Green Mile and that too had a sad ending; however, the third is in another league entirely bereft of any “feel good” factor whatsoever. It is Stephen King heading back to his primeval state and woe betide anybody hoping to leave this film with a bounce in their step.

The film begins with the aftermath of a storm that has knocked out power and, for good measure, communications, which may also be the cause of a strange mist that rolls into town. A large group of assorted characters are trapped together in the local supermarket where they slowly realise that the mist contains something far more deadly than floating H2O, although it costs a few expendable cast members their lives before the true "tentacle-y" gravity of the situation is understood.

The Mist is in no way similar to John Carpenter's 1980 horror The Fog, although there is a poster for The Thing on a wall near the start of the film (plus a poster for Indiana Jones for which Darabont wrote a rejected screenplay). Unlike the ghosts in The Fog or the Thing in The Thing, the mist contains something genetically-crossed between Alien and an octopus on steroids – basically it is one nasty, bloodthirsty, indiscriminate, rampantly breeding piece of special effects that just loves to hang out in mist killing innocent townsfolk.

The focus of the film is a social experiment that involves locking a terrified group of people together in a supermarket and continually harassing them. However, as hideous as the aforementioned beasty may seem, it is nothing in comparison to Mrs. Carmody (a fantastic Marcia Gay Harden), a religious fanatic that lives and breathes the worst verses of the Old Testament, who is among this poor group of people. Mrs. Carmody certainly tests the nerves of both the viewer and her fellow captives, with her relentless predictions of Armageddon and End of Days - Marcia Gay Harden was deservedly honoured with the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress of 2007 for that role.

As you would expect from this type of horror movie, there are scenes where the characters have to go into the mist and get medical supplies, there are the idiots who think they can reach their car and there are scenes that result in the expected scares, but... oh, yes, but, Stephen King hasn't scaled those literary heights with cliché and Darabont isn't a hack director, making each of those scenes a touch more classy and scary than usual.

The hero of the film, although I hesitate to label him that, is David Drayton (Thomas Jane), who  takes his five year-old son Billy (Nathan Gamble) and his neighbour Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) to get supplies from the supermarket, but ends up trapped with the others. He takes control from the beginning and does a great job at driving the film along, especially when faced with the biblical proportion known as Mrs. Carmody, but it is the ending that takes his character to a level that I haven't seen since the ending of 1999's Arlington Road. His final actions left me breathless and unable to blink; I truly felt as though somebody had punched me in the gut.

Of course I am not going to spoil the ending by revealing that the mist is actually fog (I'm joking), but it will certainly haunt my thoughts and probably dreams over the next few nights. The Mist will emotionally choke you up, especially the parents among you, so make sure that you have a copy of The Shawshank Redemption to hand because you will need it to recover. I can't wait to see just which of Stephen King's novels Frank Darabont will tackle next... we wait with baited breath.

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Thanos2009-01-30 00:20:45
I have to admit that i had similar feelings watching the film and for the first time in my life i had a ...light on!!!

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