Low budget, high-concept; lo-fi effects, big scale scares; Stephen King horror adaptation, quality end product. The Mist is a film of contradictions and surprises, right up until the dramatically downer-than-downbeat ending. What isn't a surprise is the film's lack of performance in the States (it was released way back in November '07, to a resoundingly disappointing $25 million total box office, explaining its delayed release on UK shores), considering the evangelical view of Christianity at its centre and the conflict it causes during a crisis.
Beginning as all good small town chillers do with an apple pie view of peachy life in the suburbs, The Mist then wastes no time in introducing its titular menace within the first ten minutes. And what a metaphorical menace it is: an all-consuming, all-surrounding, unknown, unseen presence pressing down upon the microcosm of American society that manages to hole up in the local supermarket. Can anyone say way too clever and subtle for most of the (US) moviegoing public? Like totally!
This band of merry survivors is led by a never-better Thomas Jane (Stander) as dad David Drayton, who will do anything to save his son. Including risking his own life by stepping out into the unknown and taking head-on whatever waits in store. But before he can do that with toddler-in-tow, Drayton has to deal with the fanatics on the inside, lead (in Oscar-worthy fashion) by Marcia Gay Harden's crotchety Christian Mrs Carmody, who wants to keep everyone ensnared and surrounded in order to pay for their sins in the eyes of God.
Brainy, ballsy and brilliant, The Mist is yet another example of the writing and directing skills of Frank Darabont (just imagine what Indy IV could have been had Lucas signed off his version of the script), particularly when he adapts his favoured author Stephen King. The Shawshank Redemption is a five-star infallible feel-good flick, The Green Mile is a masterfully-constructed, moving movie and The Mist is but one small step behind them both in terms of the quality on screen and the personal investment it elicits in the characters' fates from an (understanding) audience.
The Mist is, of course, a different beast altogether from its forbears. So be prepared for scares and hairs standing up on the back of your neck this time around from a King-Darabont collaboration, not tears or cheers, as the colourfully characterised characters make a break for freedom from their enforced imprisonment.