REVIEW: The Mist

Attention: American Moviegoing Public: You do not deserve great movies. You do not even deserve GOOD movies. Have you looked at a boxoffice listing lately? You should be ashamed of yourselves. Pure, freshly-prepared brilliance keeps getting laid out right in front of you (Grind ::cough:: House ::cough::) and you keep tripping all over one-another in a mad rush past it en-route to the bottom of the bell-curve. It’s enough to make any Film Geek worth his salt wonder if it’s even worth the continued effort at this point – after all, it wouldn’t seem that hard to simply make like the good guys in “Atlas Shrugged” and just cut our losses: Head off for some secluded self-made paradise, take all the unappreciated greatness of moviedom with us and just wait it out until Michael Bay, McG, Tyler Perry and the (depressing) majority that somehow finds them tolerable innevitably naturally-select themselves into oblivion.

But, since I don’t see John Galt hanging around anywhere yet, I suppose we’re still stuck with one another which means the usual routine is still in effect: Good movies continue to come out, and movie geeks do their part to TRY and alert the rest of the populace to them in the continued hope that they’ll turn decent business and get MORE good movies made. So on with it then: “The Mist” is a hundred times a better movie than a moviegoing public that just gave Michael Bay’s obliteration of the “Transformers” 300 million bucks deserves, but here it is anyway. Lucky you. Now go see it. Seriously. Go. NOW. Don’t finish reading this, because it might spoil parts of it for you. Just get to the damn theatre as soon as possible so you can say you did something worthwhile with your ten bucks for a change.

Minor but TONALLY-IMPORTANT Spoilers from here on. Go see THE BEST DAMN THEATRICAL AMERICAN HORROR MOVIE IN POSSIBLY A DECADE FIRST, then come back here and read it. You have been warned.

“The Mist,” both in it’s original form as a short story and a feature-length film, can be easily summed up as “Stephen King doing H.P. Lovecraft,” which calls to mind nothing so much as a large cast of tragically-flawed characters dodging otherworldly tentacle-flailing monsters somewhere in Maine. That’s essentially the case, but like all the best of Mr. King’s output it’s at once much MORE but never anything LESS than what it seems: Most bigger-scale entries of the horror genre can only ever manage to be either visceral crowd-pleasers or subdued intellectual exercises, but this Stephen King adaptation (from legendary “serious” King adaptor Frank Darabont) actually manages to carry-over it’s author’s signature knack for being both – it’s as good when it’s about societal microcosms breaking down under stress as it is when it’s about man-eating bugs and giant killer octopi; and it’s great when it’s about both.

The setting is another of King’s small Maine coastal towns, specifically it’s local supermarket. Following a freak storm, a pale, soup-thick mist engulfs everything in sight and shortly reveals itself to be a mere harbinger of bigger problems: An apparent legion of horrible monsters have come with it, using the inclement weather as cover. Soon enough, a cross-section of humanity is stuck in the market fending off the unexplainable threats outside; and it isn’t long before social decorum breaks down factions start to form. It boils down to a Disaster Movie, really, though one where the disaster is an assault by creatures of ever-increasing size and hostility.

The whole point of any disaster movie is to observe the actions of humanity as a whole under stress through a collection of individual examples, so the fact that the gaggle of Cthulu-chow-to-be that turns up here is largely the same that shows up for every cinematic disaster doesn’t so much indicate lack of overt-originality on the movie’s as it does lack of tremendous change on humanity’s part: When George Romero more-or-less originated this subgenre with “Night of The Living Dead,” an unpopular war was raging abroad while clashes of Civil Rights and Social Values were tearing the homefront apart. Today, well… you get the picture. Art reflects the world in which it’s created, so here we are once again with a diverse group of people trapped by the boogeymen and choosing up sides: The stubborn rationalists work their nerves raw denying the obvious, the cowardly and the easily-led turn to religious zeal and the level-headed problem-solvers try to keep themselves alive… and find a way out before the first two groups start getting everyone killed.

Thomas Jane has the Gene Hackman “Poseidon Adventure” role as the defacto leader of the “good guys,” a movie poster artist (in alarmingly athletic shape all things considered) who’s brought his son along. Andre Braugher has the “bah, monsters!? Nonsense! And let me walk out into the mist to prove it!” role… which come to think of it is the same part he had in the remake of “The Poseidon Adventure.” Heh. Marcia Gay-Harden has the showy part as Mrs. Carmody, the villian of the piece: An unstable holy-roller for whom the mist and it’s monsters MUST mean the End of Days – i.e. time for her to get about the business of saving the sinners… at knife-point, if necessary.

There’s been a bit of carping in the critical in regards to Mrs. Carmody as a character, or rather the film’s unsubtle implication that The Faithful can be a lot more hateful and deadly than even the creepiest-crawler. To those folks, I reccomend that they hit up Google and take a fresh look at that big freaking crater in the middle of Manhattan. Yeah, Carmody is a being of one-dimensional evil, a “human” entirely void of humanity thanks to their singular devotion to spiritual self-righteousness… and the world is crawling with them. What makes her scary is that she’s entirely recognizable – even if you don’t want to admit it. What makes her possibly the best Bad Guy of 2007 is that Harden pulls it off.

Aside from telling you the important stuff – that the movie is slam-bang terrific, that the monsters are legendarily cool, that the gore is sublime, that it’s scary-as-hell, that it offers one of the most expertly-cathartic “hell yeah!” moments of the year, that it’s the best (scary) Stephen King adaptation since “The Shining,” that it’s going to kick your ass like almost no theatrically-released American movie has been willing to kick your ass in a looooong time – you’re not gonna get much more out of me. There’s a lot of surprises to be had here that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling… including The Big One. Just please trust me that “The Mist” is boasting what will likely become one of the most talked-about endings in horror movie history and you owe it to yourself to see it the right way before some jerkoff ruins it for you.

This is the best horror film to run in theatres in decades, the best horror movie PERIOD of 2007 and (after “Gone Baby Gone”) the #2 Best Movie of The Year. It’s playing near you, it’s damn-near-perfect, and when you see it on HBO later you’re going to wish you’d made it in theaters. You NEED to see “The Mist.”


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