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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Mist (The)

“Look at me, I'm as helpless as a kitten up a tree, and I feel like I'm clinging to a cloud I can't understand, I get misty, just holding your hand.” Ah, the sound of Johnny Mathis singing his signature song with lyrics by Erroll Garner and Johnny Burke just naturally enter my head upon hearing that my perfect husband and I are going to go see The Mist at the Essex Cinemas this weekend. I don’t know why, other than the words “mist” and “misty” are tied together because there is nothing else close in content between the two. The only thing you might get ‘misty’ from in The Mist is blood splatter, but what can you expect from a movie based on a novella by Stephen King?

I love Mr. King. When I lived in Maine I used to see him out in his yard, raking leaves in Autumn or carrying groceries in from the car like any other suburban husband and father the rest of the year. The fact that he did these things from behind a wrought iron fence filled with bats and spiders straight out of something from "The Addams Family" seemed a tad unusual, but other than that, the King of Horror could pass for downright normal. He would wave a friendly “hello” and smile when someone walked by, never giving a glimmer of what might be going on in his mind, which, if The Mist, is any indication, could have involved taking his rake and impaling the passerby through the back of the head.

Yep, The Mist is a grisly little potboiler, directed and written for the screen by Frank Darabont, who also adapted and directed King’s The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, his two most successful mainstream films. Unlike those two, however, The Mist is a full-on monsterfest in the tradition of “B” movies of the 1950s.

It begins in the aftermath of a bad storm along the Maine coastal community of Castle Rock (that poor little town is the dumping ground for so much of King’s rage) when local movie poster artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane; Killshot) and his son Billy (Nathan Gamble; Diggers) reluctantly take their crabby neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braugher; Poseidon) with them to the local supermarket since a tree fell on his classic Mercedes during the storm. There’s been a longstanding animosity between Drayton and Norton over a property dispute from years ago, but for the moment they are setting this aside ~ at least for the day, or so they say now.

What a day to go grocery shopping! I hate going to the grocery store anyway because if you live in a small community like I do someone you know is bound to run into you just while you are eyeing
the KY warming gel on aisle 6 at the Pricechopper, and by the time you get home there will be four crank calls on the answering machine about your purchase. Welcome to small town living! So imagine this: you and Mr. Crankypants Norton go into the store and five minutes later some guy runs in covered in blood, screaming about “The Mist” before collapsing on the floor while the store is suddenly enveloped in a shroud of thick white smoke. You notice I haven’t said the “f” word once, and by “f” word I’m not talking about the biological one referring to copulation but the meteorological one having to do with weather fronts. I’m sure the filmmakers purposely avoided the “f” word for fear of conjuring up comparisons to the 1980 John Carpenter movie or its 2005 remake with the same title that was about a bunch of monstrous creatures appearing in The F— oops, you almost got me, who wreak havoc on a coastal community. That’s nothing like this 2007 release about a bunch of monstrous creatures appearing in the mist, who wreak havoc on a coastal community because 1) this is mist and not f--, and 2) this coastal community is on the East coast whereas the one in The F— was on the West coast, so DUH!

Anyway, The Mist is full of creepy crawlies and it doesn’t take long before Darwinism takes hold and stupidity helps thin the herd of some (but not enough) dimbulb shoppers, giving the main players their chances to shine in the spotlight. Brightest of these belongs to the most annoying character to inhabit a movie screen in a very long time, Mrs. Carmody, played by Oscar winner Marcia Gaye Harden, who I hate to say I have always found exceedingly annoying even out of character, though I’m not sure why. I think it’s her eyes, which seem a teeny bit on the beady side for my taste. She is probably a lovely woman, but she reminds me of a ferret, and here she is at her most excruciating as a Bible-thumping “End of Days” ferret-faced shopper who takes this opportunity to drum up business for her new self-appointed job as Savior heir-apparent since those in the store have fallen hostage to the unknown but deadly creatures that kill anyone who attempts to escape the store by going out into the f--, er, mist.

What transpires over the course of the film is as much a psychological experiment in terror as an actual confrontation with the supernatural. The monsters on the outside are scary, to be sure, but in this microcosm of society breaking down, with Mrs. Carmody channeling Pat Robertson at his worst (is there ever a best?), the monsters inside prove to be just as deadly, if not more so.

Also on hand are Jack Hurst (The Speakeasy) as Joe Eagleton and Sam Witwer (Crank) as Wayne Jessup , a couple of marines who had been on their way to a well-deserved leave when
The Mist blew in, and they are soon looked on as suspects in this mess if only because of their affiliation to the military, who many believed must be responsible for this nightmare, the result of a nuclear disaster or some secret experiment gone awry. Science and faith battle away with one another while giant creatures and insects the size of men buzz around outside. This becomes a bigger mess than if Danny Bonaduce tried to direct a Catholic girls’ school’s third grade production of The Nativity Story. And you know, this being Stephen King and all, it’s most likely going to end badly.

I wouldn’t think of telling you those juicy details, but it does, indeed, have a uniquely King ending that will leave you feeling like you really were in that damned mist yourself. Something so unexpected (for those who hadn’t read the novella anyway) happens that it far exceeds the simple “Boo!” of Carrie White’s hand reaching out from beyond the grave. This one will reach out and grab your heart in a most horrible way. It's very well done, but, geez, I guarantee you will not leave with a laugh on your lips. It's a harsh world out there in the f--.

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