Saturday, March 08, 2008
LATE TO THE MOVIES: The Mist
I'd heard good things about The Mist for a while now, from general buzz, from my pal Josh Rothkopf and our own Tasha Robinson's review. This week Scott Tobias became a convert. I was still skeptical. I've never had any great affection for writer/director Frank Darabont. The Shawshank Redemption is solid enough, and I like the way it balances roughness with sentiment. But after sitting through The Green Mile and The Majestic I'd lost the faith. But after watching The Mist tonight I can confirm the rumors are true.
Adapted from a 1980 novella by Stephen King, it combines the best of King—the class-conscious realism and the ability to make horror emerge from the fabric of everyday life—with the best of H.P. Lovecraft—hungry, tentacled beasties. (Side note: Do this and Cloverfield suggest a trend of stealth Lovecraft adaptations?) It's tense and minimal, extremely well-crafted, and able to deliver on the promise of shocks. Is there any cheesier horror movie device than one character looking over the shoulder of another and gasping, "Oh god!" Probably not. But every time it happens here the imagery that follows is truly Oh God!-worthy, even if there's not an element lacking an easily identifiable source of inspiration.
It's also political as hell, thanks to Marcia Gay Harden's fire-and-brimstone crazy lady character, who uses fear to make herself a demagogue. There's no shortage of monsters here, but the bulk of the action concerns the meltdown of trust amongst characters trapped in a supermarket. It's like the Twilight Zone episode "Monsters Are Due On Maple Street" only with, you know, actual monsters. And unlike a lot of King story's, it has an ending that works, courtesy of Darabont. A horrific, horrific ending.
I think a cult following awaits The Mist, which did little at the box office but has already had a couple of midnight showings At The Music Box here in Chicago. It's certainly one of the best mainstream horror movies of recent years even if, after that final scene, I'm now thinking Darabont's kind of a bastard.