(2007) dir. Frank Darabont
viewed: 11/23/07 at AMC Van Ness 14, SF, CA
The Mist wasn’t on my list. The Mist could have been missed. But circumstances changed all that. A day on my own, opportunistic timing, and a movie that I only had mild interest in became my latest cinematic experience.
Adapted from Stephen King, as apparantly almost all Frank Darabont films must be (note: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999)). He’s one of the few people who have elevated King on the silver screen to something more redeemable and notable (I haven’t seen The Green Mile, but I thought that The Shawshank Redemption was pretty good). Others include Brian DePalma’s Carrie (1976), Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), and Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986). Sure, there are others of note, but there are a huge number of ridiculously bad movies, too.
The problem with The Mist (and it’s interesting how it’s always “mist” and never “fog” — big difference from a copyright infringement perspective, I guess) is that Darabont spends a huge amount of time on character development and attempting to give the actors space to “act” and do that thing that actors are supposed to do. Darabont’s previous works with King are not of the pulpiest variety of his work, and the reason that this film interested me at all was that it was pure pulp. There is not real deeper significance. This is a quick-scare potboiler. I guess that Darabont either didn’t get the message or somehow thought he could “heighten” the material. It makes for lots of dead time in what should be a seat-of-your-pants thriller.
Also, the fog,…sorry…mist is inhabited by your average everyday digitally animated and designed monsters and bugs. It’s ultimately nothing so primordially frightening. In fact, by the time the creatures show themselves, it’s a lot less interesting. It is notable that there does seem some homage to H.P. Lovecraft with these creatures and beasties, what with this rift between dimensions and some “inconceivable” horrors…no offence to Mr. Lovecraft intended.
The film’s largest problem is Marcia Gay Harden, who plays the born-again Chrisitian psycho who whips up the locals into hysteria a la Jim Jones (even directly noted in dialogue at one point). Harden chews scenery at a rate so amazingly ravenous that it’s amazing they were able to have a set at all. It’s the most over-the-top performance that I’ve seen in ages. But it totally bogs down the film and keeps the action to a limited pace.
There are some “liberal”/”democratic” asides made by a few characters, and Harden’s ranting occasionally rings of criticism of the internal U.S. propaganda from the government to support the wars in the Middle East. While I am sure that is intended, it’s heavy-handed and guileless. And even though politically I agree, I think it sinks this movie further from its path of making a real thriller.
There are no real joys here. No real fun. And despite being big-budgeted and entertaining enough, I think it was also pretty darn crappy. Though the ironic ending (which should have had more impact than it did) redeemed it by a small degree.
Pessimism and irony. We all need a little more of that.