Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Mist

I was considerably late to The Mist party, and painfully so because I've heard endless comments on the conclusion of the film, without actually knowing what it is. Whenever I felt I would hear a possible spoiler, I would basically cover my ears with my hands and shamefully sing aloud. Despite this, I wasn't exactly expecting a top-notch film; it always seemed like it would be more comparable to an M. Night Shyamalan film such as The Happening (which if you didn't already know, is a film that you would never want your film being compared to by any means necessary). As in, a very promising cast and story, but for one reason or another it just falls completely flat on its ass and fails to succeed on any level, really. Also, even though I recognize Thomas Jane as a talented actor (whom is the main protagonist of The Mist), my last cinematic experience with him wasn't a very pleasant one. The last film I've seen him star in, The Punisher, was so unexpectedly intolerable that I actually shut it off before the third act, which is something I rarely do. Thankfully, this wasn't the case with The Mist. Frank Darabont directed the film, who is a veteran when it comes to adapting Stephen King novels to the big screen, has also directed movies such as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. So my low expectations for this film were nonsensical and stupid, really.

At first glance, The Mist has a very simple plot; a bunch of people in a supermarket are unexpectedly trapped inside when mysterious creatures begin terrorizing and killing anyone who decides to wander as far as the parking lot. And by killing, I mean tearing apart your inner organs into bits and pieces. One of the main aspects that drives the film is the fact that no one can really see exactly what it is that wants to eat them for dinner; most of the monster's physical appearances are entirely shrouded behind the mysterious mist. But when you dig deeper, The Mist has several interlaying themes to it that can really be discussed among dorks for hours one end. One major reason being that although this is a "monster movie", the movie isn't just about the monsters, but rather the people's sanity, and watching them deal with not only the monsters, but with each other. Will they overcome their differences, or succumb to fear? Knowing that Stephen King is a huge Lord of the Flies nerd, it is obvious what inspired him to write such a story, as they are very thematically similar. It is amazing to watch (some of) these seemingly civilized people go over the edge, and seeing exactly what it is that makes them do so. There is a lady, Mrs. Carmody, played by Marcia Gay Harden, who is fundamentally agreed by everyone in the film to be bonkers (she is also a Catholic nut). But as the fear among them grows, the more sane she becomes to some of them. The film takes a sudden turn into a "faith versus logic" debate, which is how the store basically becomes divided.  The most ironic fact about The Mist is most of the people who die in this film aren't killed by monsters, but by themselves. There is literally an entire scene, where the "sane" group openly discusses this: "As a species, we're fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?"

What is admirable about the film is it is obvious it wasn't given a large budget, so it was interesting to see what Darabont squeezed out of what little he had. In a Jaws-inspired technique, it isn't what you see that makes you sit on the edge of your seat, it's what you don't see. There is a scene where a man attempts to temporarily leave the store, so his co-survivors tie a rope around him so he can find his way back. Even though you don't see one bit of monster in this scene, it just might be the scariest one, just because of the brilliance of Darabont and how he uses the rope to scare you more than any creature does in the movie. The monsters themselves have very actual screen time, and when they do they are usually have clouded by the mist anyway. Despite this, it is hard to disagree that CG doesn't exactly age well. As for the ending, I won't say much because I refuse to spoil it (trust me, you don't want me to), but the basic theme I have gathered from it is never to lose hope, under any circumstances, but this is widely open to interpretation, and my opinion will probably change upon a second viewing of the film, and maybe even again by the third. All I know for sure is I was expecting a B-monster movie, but was given a lot more than that. It definitely isn't a perfect movie and has it's flaws, but it's definitely worth checking out if not for the scares, but because it just has a lot to say about society. Admittedly, I am a sucker for these kinds of films, ones that test the limits of the human mentality, and what makes them finally snap. This film fills that appetite quite heartily.