Out of all the movies based on Stephen King stories, I think The Mist is probably the best suited to be included in the Monster Movie Marathon. A small town under siege by macabre insect-like creatures? Yes, please. Not all King novels translate well to the screen, but I think they hit this one out of the park.
Thomas Jane plays an artist, mostly for movie posters and the like, living on the outskirts of a small Maine town with his wife and young son. There’s a nice nod to The Dark Tower in one of the opening scenes, as Jane’s character is designing a poster for a film adaptation to that King novel–oh, how I wish. A big storm rolls through and a fallen tree crashes through the house, requiring him to head into town the next morning for supplies. He and his son go and while at the grocery store a wall of mist rolls down from the hills, into town, and within it an unseen army of creatures that are killing anything that gets caught up in the rolling mist. Folks are basically trapped in whatever building in which they can find shelter.
Now, there’s a bit of a hangup in my view concerning the mist, as it doesn’t seem to penetrate any cracks in windows or doorways. In fact, there are scenes when the doors to the grocery store are open and the mist doesn’t move beyond the doorways. Meh, I digress.
The townsfolk inside are essentially trapped as anyone who ventures out disappears into that thick fog and screams bloody murder when an alien silhouette attacks and kills them. No one can exactly see what’s out there, and few are in a hurry to find out, so they all hunker down and gawk out the windows waiting for help to come. Good plan, I guess. But as time rolls on, tensions mount and and the fear and paranoia escalate to a point where those inside start turning on each other as much as they band together against whatever is out there.
And there’s some crazy stuff out there. The storage room scene early on where a giant tentacle reaches inside through the gap in the bay door is phenomenal. I also really enjoyed the scene where they tether a character with a rope, to act as a lifeline, when he insists on leaving with a small group. That scene is palpable with suspense, and if you haven’t seen it then you ought to check out the movie just for that.
What holds the movie together is the conflicts inside the store, among the various townsfolks, with the scared but composed folks unofficially led by Thomas Jane, while the panicked and paranoid folks gather round to Marcia Gay Harden’s Bible-thumping malcontent who preaches that the mist and its creatures are a punishment from God. Harden has played some abrasive characters before, but she throws it into high gear for this movie and barely manages to avoid becoming a cartoon.
The creature design is very cool and very creepy, once they start coming out of the mist to appear on screen, and seem to hold up well. Sometimes when the unseen threat in a film is finally seen, there can be disappointment, but that didn’t happen for me in this movie. They don’t reinvent the wheel, but I can put myself in those people’s shoes and imagine how I’d lose my composure with any one of those critters.
And while I’d love to talk about the end of the movie, I just can’t spoil it. I can only suggest you watch this movie if you want to see a scary creature feature and get ready for a very contentious ending.