Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Mist

Mist by a mile...

Frank Darabont, who penned and directed superior adaptations of Stephen King's work with The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, made an interesting choice when he chose to take on King novella "The Mist" as his latest project. The written story is short, shocking, and bloody, and as far as novellas go, it makes for a good way to spend a couple of hours. I wish I could say the same for the film version, which Darabont himself said in an interview recently was a complete departure from the norm for him. As I sat in the theater, squirming in my seat for 124 minutes, I wished no less than a dozen times that he had left well enough alone and kept making good movies.

What we have here is a classic formula of "archetypes stuck in a small space who must fight for their lives" after a storm blows through a small Maine town, bringing with it a thick fog filled with all manner of creepy crawlies that have a taste, naturally, for the dumbest people in the movie. The small space in this case is a grocery store, where a trip for emergency supplies following the storm becomes the stage for showcasing the number of crazies who apparently like to live or vacation in the Maine countryside. Thomas Jane plays David Drayton, one of the smarter ones, who is there with his little boy Billy and his pompously lawyeriffic neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Brougher). Also shopping for canned goods are Resourceful Nerdy Guy, Hot Blonde Sexual Tension Device, Tough Old Lady Who Should Have Been the Hero, Dumb Hick #1, Dumb Hick #2, and Dumb Hick Who Goes Crazy. Of course we can't forget the most pivotal of the town folk, Religious Nutcake who Eats Fire and Brimstone for Breakfast. This one is played by Marcia Gay Harden in a role that indicates that someone attempted to act in this movie.

The Mist suffers heavily from Lost Script Syndrome, a disease that a movie contracts when it becomes clear that everyone involved in making the picture lost their script and decided to just wing it. This is evidenced by a hasty first act, a lumbering, meandering second act, and choppily delivered dialog. "There are... things out there. Things." It's not very often when a major motion picture has the same awkwardness with its lines as a first-time host of Saturday Night Live who can't break eye contact with the cue cards.

Certainly there were some well-done aspects to the movie. A lot of the visuals were genuinely frightening. I jumped a few times, and the creatures from the mist had an other-worldly quality that were more than faithful to my imagination's depiction of them from the original story. I also enjoyed the Resourceful Nerd character, Ollie Weeks, who delivered the much-needed response to the culminating insanity brought about by Religious Nutcake.

But for the genuine scares and shocks brought about by The Mist, the film could not escape the weight of the over-the-top idiocy of its characters. In a typical movie of this genre, there is always one guy who everyone wishes would just go ahead and die already. In this movie, there there were several.

As if all this weren't enough to warrant a below-average rating, the ending of the film brought about such overwhelming feelings of outrage and disgust, I couldn't recall walking out of a theater so angry in a long time. Without revealing too much, I will say that I felt tricked in a most disingenuous sort of way, like someone who was just fed a sandwich made with moldy bread and was given a glass of spoiled milk with which to wash it down. Frank Darabont should be ashamed for choosing to wrap up this movie in such a way.

Suffice to say, if you have missed The Mist, you haven't missed much.

Gouda's Final Grade: D