Frank Darabont is one talented writer and director, evidenced simply by one of the greatest films of all time The Shawshank Redemption. And even though I am less than a fan (to say the least) of his other prison movie The Green Mile, based on the above-mentioned masterpiece I will see anything he is even involved in.
His latest film The Mist, based as those other mentioned films are on a Stephen King book, is his exploration of a genre unknown to him – the horror/thriller. And there’s a lot to like about it but it’s far from the level he has reached before.
The film centres around a freak storm which unleashes a mysterious mist, and a band of blood-thirsty creatures that lurk within it, on a small town, where a small band of citizens hole-up in a supermarket and try to fight for their lives.
The Mist is by and large a mystery thriller with elements of horror (sometimes gory examples of it) only thrown in here and there. It’s the intense cases of the latter which should equals parts shock and satisfy any fans of this kind of film. But it was the mystery element that kept me watching and more importantly interested. The first and last section of the film has mystery in abundance and fortunately that makes up for the lacking middle section. Especially towards the beginning, when we are first introduced to this mysterious mist which has descended upon this small town and the group of people we spend our time with, there is a very intense sense of “What the hell is this? What’s going on?” Most of the time there’s this eerie “nothingness” to it all, something I think was very on purpose. This is accomplished by a strange lack of a musical score in the moments where we would usually expect there to be one and, of course, the fact we don’t know what the hell is going on.
The fact that most of the film takes place within a supermarket allows for interesting confrontations between the characters. At first they band together in their fear then they start to pick and choose sides. It’s more realistic, if I can use that term with regards to a film like this, in the way the characters act than I have seen from a film of this type in quite a while. It’s not all clichés with every character representing a typical type of person but instead at least the characters seem half believable in their diversity. However I can say that more than a few times the acting was less than convincing, sometimes even outright bad, which effectively takes back the believability the film managed to muster in the first place. I just hate it when a film works so hard to achieve one thing and then does something else which negates what they just accomplished; this unfortunately happens with The Mist.
I apologise to anyone who may count my synopsis of the film as a spoiler but I can see no way I can even talk about it without telling you something about the threat which looms on the characters. The CGI is both a strength and a major weakness of the film. When we’re inside the supermarket looking out at this mysterious mist, the creature effects look great, probably because we can only vaguely see what they are and are left to make up our own minds. However when the first scene of attack occurs, and we get up close and personal with the creatures, the computer effects are very apparent. This again takes back something they managed to accomplish earlier on – the fact that they showed more means that the effect is less. And I sense it was supposed to be the exact opposite.
One of my biggest complaints about the film has to be the character played by Marcia Gay Harden. Although she’s nothing short of great here as far as her performance goes, as she always is, this religious, and sorry for being so blunt, nut-job jabbers on and on about how this is the “end of days” and that the people who want to survive aren’t “bending to God’s will”. Frankly I got sick of it after only a few minutes of hearing her but that’s not enough. For some reason she is allowed to carry on, with no one doing anything to shut her the hell up. I usually don’t want to hold a single element (or in this case a character) against a film, but the beating over the head of this religious element using this woman really just annoyed the hell out of me.
Darabont’s strength is his ability to garner tension and fear through us not knowing just what the hell is going to happen next. It’s a very unpredictable film with an almost unbearable, venom filled ironic conclusion, and it also serves up some great mystery, fear and tension and a few gleefully gory moments to boot. I could go on and on about its weaknesses too, as it goes without saying that there are many I have failed to mention, but I’d rather end on a fairly high note; The Mist is worth checking out even if it’s nothing overly great.