Written by El Puerquito Magnifico
The Mist has long been a favorite among Stephen King fans, including myself. Coming in at 133 pages, it is a short novel, or a novella, by most authors’ standards. By King standards, it's simply a long paragraph. At any rate, it's a beloved tale, and was a highly anticipated movie. Finally released in 2007, it was adapted for the screen and directed by Frank Darabont, who is no stranger to Stephen King adaptations, having handled directorial duties on both The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.
The story takes place in a small New England town that has been enveloped in a mysterious, monster-filled fog after being hit by a vicious thunderstorm the night before. Our hero, commercial artist David Drayton, heads to the local grocery store with his young son to pick up some supplies to help them make it through what will undoubtedly be a few days without power. While at the store, a local shows up frantically warning the other townsfolk about "something in the mist." It doesn't take long for the monsters to show themselves and the chaos to begin. Naturally, Mrs. Carmody, the town cuckoo, is in the store, and her belief that the biblical Armageddon is upon them slowly but surely whips the survivors into a frenzy. The film becomes a race against time for David and the few remaining rational people in the store, as the danger begins to mount from both inside and outside the store.
The movie reminded me a lot of the old Twilight Zone episode "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street," in which an unexplained power outage leads to paranoia and eventually to outright hysteria, with neighbor pitted against neighbor. It's one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, and the idea that in a crisis situation, ignorance and fear are often the greatest threats, is handled well by Darabont. It's sort of like Lord of the Flies with a bunch of big, nasty multi-tentacled bug monsters. As social commentary, The Mist is pretty good. As a horror movie, however, it's somewhat lacking.
Thomas Jane basically sleepwalks his way through this role. At no point in the film was I suitably convinced that he gave a damn about his son, or for that matter, anyone else in the grocery store. He seemed to be simply reading his lines, adding a tiny bit of inflection here and there. The rest of the cast was better, especially Nathan Gamble as Drayton's young son Billy. I mean, all the kid really does is whimper and cry through the whole movie, but he does it quite convincingly.
The Mist is not really a very scary movie either. Now, I'm the type of person who gets scared pretty easily, it took me three viewings before I could watch The Descent without covering my eyes with my hand, and don't even ask me about The Exorcist, so if I tell you a movie isn't scary, it just isn't scary. Despite the fact that the store is surrounded by a fog so thick you could cut it with a knife, and that fog is filled with freakish creatures from another dimension, there just isn't really a whole lot of tension, save for the scenes with the crazed religious mob. Now, I understand that Frank Darabont was trying to make a point here, and that the movie is more about the monsters inside than the ones outside. Still, I think he could've tried to make the ones outside a little more threatening, or at least made me jump a little bit.
In conclusion, The Mist is not a great movie, nor is it a bad movie; it's just sort of there. I will say that I enjoyed it, and I'd definitely give it a thumbs-up, but it's the type of flick that is probably better seen as a matinée, or perhaps when it hits your local discount theater. In short, I'd describe it as "The best made-for-tv movie ever made, that just happened to end up on the big screen."
For fans of the book, yes, there have been a few alterations, but none so major that it's worth getting riled up about. The ending has been changed quite a bit, but to be totally honest, I thought the ending of the movie was actually better.