It's a Stephen King short story adapted and filmed by Frank Darabont, known more for his character based adaptations of King's work.
It was showing at the Dead by Dawn Horror Film Festival, the only place I've seen carrying this superb film, and well done them for getting hold of it. The audience were cheering, laughing and applauding throughout and they utterly loved the film. I did too.
The Mist follows the short story pretty closely, a strange mist appears and rolls into town. As it sweeps towards the main shopping mall someone escapes from it and races into the mall screaming – they saw something in the mist take their friend and kill them.
That's when the paranoia sets in and those in the mall lock themselves in as the mist envelopes them. It isn't long before the first casualty falls to the mist and the creatures outside are slowly revealed, all the while the dynamics of the people inside are changing and a religious nut is stirring up trouble.
I think, for me, that was one of the strongest aspects of the film, the way the religious group rises in power and then begins to have this huge influence on the others to very deadly ends. The way the main religious character is written and portrayed is superb, and you the way she develops her insanity and the cult around her never strays into the realms of unbelievability.
In fact, as we talked about the film afterwards, the group I was in all saw this as how it would really transpire and believed how a religiously obsessed person would deal with the events around them.
What gives that character extra strength, and the others around her, are how well the relationships are written, and this is something that Frank Darabont has shown in his previous films so well. He's a great writer of people, of dialogue, and of how they interplay with each other, and this really drives The Mist forward.
Part of that is the realistic dialogue filled with dark humour and quips, not only do they serve to break the tension in the audience in order to build it back up again, but it also makes you believe these characters are real. After all to some degree we all have that dark humour, I know I do, and that comes through the film.
As I watched it with the packed audience at Dead by Dawn it certainly felt as though the humour was perfectly timed and felt just right. In fact there were no flopped jokes that fell flat on the audience, and they were even laughing at the odd dark moment themselves.
That's something that we shouldn't forget about the film, it is dark and it is rather depressing. The tension is high, as is the suspense, and there's no real idea of what could happen next, with the stakes keep getting raised by what's happening outside the mall and also inside.
Another thing that deserves praise for Darabont is just how well the film is paced, I can honestly say that there were only two small moments that I thought the pacing was a little off. One was were I thought the first ending was going to be, where the car passes in front of the mall windows, and the second just before the big final reveal.
The first moment was because I felt that the film was going to actually end, and for me the pace stuttered a little but then quickly regained strength and came back with much more power with a blistering soundtrack choice and some amazing visuals.
The second moment is when we come to the ending, and within the group I was chatting with there was a complete split about how we felt about that. Myself and one other bloke really thought that the ending was powerful, clever, and really did pack an emotional punch.
However when we talked as a group the others thought that it had various degrees of Hollywood ending, feeling very contrived and forced. After talking to them and hearing what they had to say I have to agree a little.
I can't really describe what makes me think that, but if there had been a little more time before the ending and perhaps events had developed from a different direction, then I wouldn't have felt a little let down.
I really can't say more than that without giving things away, but that'll give us an interesting talking point for those that have seen it.
So for me the ending was a little compromised. At the time though I did think it was excellent, although I could see the clues and I was starting to wonder, it did come as a big surprise and come out of nowhere. After the conversation with others though it felt a little contrived and forced, but I have to say at the time it was an excellent ending.
A quick mention about the cool references at the start of the film, the main character is an artist for film posters and in the opening shots we see a poster for The Thing, which really does say that the tone of this film is going to reference the film, and it does. The other painting that the artist is working on is for The Dark Tower, and how good would that be to see a film of that story? Like that idea though the painting is destroyed.
The effects in the film are very good, and get better as time goes on and the creatures become more scary and creepy, but there are two moments where they don't work well. The first is the opening meeting with the creatures as the tentacles stretch into the warehouse, they look completely CGI and faked, and don't really work at all, especially when they are wrapped around the face of an actor. Honestly at that point I thought the graphics were going to be terrible.
However the effects drastically improved after that apart from one moment where one of the first bugs is crawling up the chest of the religious character and it does seem as though the two aren't interacting at all.
After that the mist is used to great effect and helps create the illusion of scale and reality. It does look as though the real effects money has been spent in the pharmacy scenes where we get treated to perhaps the creepiest and most terrifying moments of the film.
That leads me on nicely to the filming itself, which in the early stages of the film I was a little confused about. There was a tendency to frame a shot and then zoom in again afterwards. What it reminded me of are the space action sequences in Battlestar Galactica, but here in a character piece they felt a little out of place and kept jolting me a little to take notice of the shot rather than staying in the film.
The acting is really strong as well, with some well known actors playing strong roles and giving great performances that aren't over the top and really do convey fear. Thomas Jane is very good with Marcia Gay Harden giving an excellent performance as the religious obsessed nut. Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, William Sandler, Jeffrey DeMunn and Frances Sternhagen all give good performances with Toby Jones providing a surprising and pivotal role.
This definitely sits in the realms of the best adaptations of Stephen King stories, and sits at the top along with Frank Darabont's other adaptations. The writing is very strong and combined with the acting and the characters we end up with a really powerful horror film which does deliver, despite a rather contrived and Hollywood ending.