a critiQal film review The Mist (2007)

Plot: The day after an especially intense storm, a group of townspeople are attacked by strange and horrifying creatures that emerge from the thick mist that has settled on the town. As the survivors barricade themselves inside a supermarket, they discover they must face the battle amongst themselves before they can take on the creatures outside.

878 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 23s)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a sucker for “creature features.”

While I tend to like horror movies in general, the hack-n-slash variety featuring human bad guys (Halloween, Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th, etc.) are more psychologically intriguing than they are actually scary. Sure, it’s frightening to have a homicidal maniac on the loose, but there’s always hope that someone will be able to reason with him – or even best him.

Creatures, on the other hand, are a totally different story. There’s no reasoning with a spider that’s grown in size. Sure, you may fight it off – but since you already know that we humans are outnumbered by bugs by a huge amount in reality, there’s bound to be another one to take it’s place…and you can’t fight ’em all off. Plus, there’s the whole creepy “human as incubator” thing that films like Aliens have made so popular.

So with my “creature feature” sense going into overdrive – not to mention being a big fan of Stephen King’s writing – when I heard The Mist was making it’s way into theaters, I was immediately interested.

Toss in Frank Darabont, who has done well with Stephen King’s work in the past with The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, I definitely wanted to check it out – but figured I’d better wait until I could watch it in the comfort of my own home.

Thomas Jane, while totally unfit to portray recently, is able to turn in a much better performance in The Mist. Maybe it’s working as just one part of many, or maybe it’s the quality of the other actors (including Marcia Gay Harden, William Sadler and Andre Braugher) wearing off on him – whatever the reasons behind it, he is able to step it up a notch for this film.

There are so many good actors in the cast, it’s hard to say something about each and every one of them. Suffice it to say that the viewer will recognize many a familiar face (even if they won’t be able to place the name of all of them), and their individual performances work together to create a very impressive whole.

The Mist does a good job of bringing the viewers around to the supernatural. The film starts off normally, with just a normal storm that’s caused a bit of damage…and that has left a strange fog rolling over the water. Already it’s managed to introduce some bit of the supernatural mixed in with a large dose of normality.

As the film continues, a collection of people are trapped in a supermarket after an earthquake and a warning of “something in the mist.” Then, the people – and the audience – have a chance to get their collective breath back and take it easy for awhile. Just when things have calmed down, an attack occurs, and viewers get a first taste of what might be out in the mist.

From there, it’s an ever-increasing whirlwind of activity, as the people start fighting amongst themselves while battling the increasingly odd creatures that appear out of the mist.

That setup works perfectly for The Mist. By easing the audience slowly into the bizarre, Director Frank Darabont has gotten them used to the small things (ie, the mist itself) and gotten them acquainted with some of the characters (not a bad feat, considering how many people are trapped in the store).

By the time the creature attacks commence, the viewer has already been drawn into the film by the people and the circumstances – thus making the attacks that much more tense. And once Frank grabs the viewer, he doesn’t let go until it’s all over, and only then to let the audience stumble around in the aftermath in wonder.

True, the end falters a bit, seeming somewhat rushed and slightly disjointed, and the ending is easily guessed at, but 5 minutes or so of predictability really isn’t that bad for a horror movie that runs about 2 hours (half an hour longer than the typical horror flick). The built up tension from the rest of the film is only diminished somewhat by the end, since that end is still as creepy as can be, despite it’s predictability.

The special effects really help Frank achieve his goals in The Mist. Despite the odd characters that appear out of the mist, not one looks anything but entirely real. While it may look bizarre, the viewer gets a sense that it’s still a living, breathing creature that’s looking for food – and the unfortunate people in the store are dinner. No matter how big or small, each creature is rendered in exacting detail, and the special effects never slip to reveal the “wires behind the scenes,” so to speak.

With a storyline that does an extremely good job of drawing the viewer in before latching on and not letting go, The Mist already stands above the average horror fare. Toss in entirely believable alien creatures and a very good ensemble cast, and you’ve got the making of a really good creature feature.

Rent The Mist today. Afterward, just remember to put down your can of Raid® – eventually. After all, it is only a movie.

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