Who’d have thought that Frank Darabont would be able to put a bunch of people into a supermarket, envelope the outside with an evil mist, and manage to keep things interesting for two hours? Not me, that much is certain. And yet The Mist somehow manages to take this very basic premise and run with it. Hats off to Frank Darabont, he’s a man who knows what he’s doing when it comes to adapting Stephen King works for the screen.
As a fan of The Walking Dead it was fun to see a few familiar faces in the cast here. Melissa McBride, Laurie Holden and Jeffrey DeMunn would later go on to appear in the (initially) Darabont-helmed adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comic (which reminds me, I still have the latest issue to read…). It’s always a pleasure seeing William Sadler in anything. Here he’s a mechanic who has a very intriguing and entirely respectable character arc. Likewise for Toby Jones, he is another actor who I will always pay good money to see. And bad money too, if necessary.
But with that aside, it’s a thoroughly engaging story for many other reasons. The division between the survivors is a particular highlight. The slow conversion of the scared and the fearful to Mrs Carmody’s resolutely Old Testament religious zeal is developed well. This gradually expands and causes significant concern for the more level headed and fact based members of the group.
On the other side of the spectrum are the more personal relationships between the characters. Thomas Jane’s David has a history with his antagonistic neighbour Brent (Andre Braugher). After the storm in the opening moments wrecks both their houses they appear to be on their way to fixing the divide between them. Then the mist descends and the old rivalries and misunderstandings begin to bubble back up to the surface.
In fact the only thing that doesn’t work too well is the explanation for where the creatures and the mist came from. This is only a small portion of the film, however, so it’s not worth dwelling on. There’s an argument for the CGI creatures being a little uneven too, but the film is tense where it needs to be and that, in the grand scheme of things, is all that matters.
It also has possibly the bleakest ending in the history of cinema. Go in knowing this, by all means. It won’t change a thing. In fact, you’ll likely applaud Frank Darabont for sticking to his guns and releasing the film with the ending he wanted. If it fits the story then we don’t need a happy finale. Just take a look at Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, compare his ending with the studio interference “love conquers all” finish, and tell me which is better. If you say the studio ending… Grud help you.
If you get chance, I’d also recommend watching the black and white version of the film. Despite being identical in every way to the colour version, the monochrome look gives it a completely different feel and flavour. Given a choice between the two, the black and white version wins it. Good thing, because it’s Darabont’s favourite version too.