Rounding out the Darabont/King trilogy is kind of a seismic shift in content, if not tone. Where before we had teary-eyed prison dramas, The Mist is set in a different kind of prison, and its supernatural element is much more rampant, let’s say, than Michael Clarke Duncan’s Coffey. Instead of a swarm of bugs representing one’s evil, it’s… well, maybe it’s not so different.
Combine Thomas Jane’s dramatic side with a genre role, and we get a much-welcomed performance. He may be too good-looking for the everyman part, but he’s perfectly believable — frightened and tense. I start there because it makes sense: we take this very Hollywood-looking person and put him through a hell of a time, a spiraling journey that would claim any other soul — and does his.
Very faithful to the King novella in all but the ending, The Mist is a smart, if blunt, “What-if?” story, remarking upon humankind’s infinite capacity for cruelty, with gradual reversion to an animal state given the right circumstances. King is an author known first for horror but second for mythmaking, and his stories are sometimes about stories. Here, the portal to another dimension seems suspiciously science-fictiony, and this is by design: it’s familiar mythos (which would go on to inspire further mythos in Half-Life) that interfaces perfectly with religious paranoia.
I don’t know where in the Bible it talks about pterodactyls, but it’s understandable that this plague could be seen as the harbinger of a rapture or apocalypse. Contrast something so Lovecraftian and huge with the confines of a New England grocery store, and we have the makings for genre duality — outside, scary monsters, inside, scary people. It’s investigative and curious, but ultimately highly cynical.
And when those two elements spill over into one another, it’s a series of emotional, manipulative, and angering set pieces that’ll set your atheism meter all out of whack. It can be pretty powerful, all held together with a raw kind of photography, and intense performances.
The creatures designs though are a personal highlight, much as I enjoy the intensity and engagement the film offers — much more so than The Walking Dead do I imagine myself in this sort of environment, how I’d act, etc. I work in a grocery store, so there are certainly days where I wish something exciting like this would happen, and my assistant manager could shoot at giant dragonflies with a tiny revolver. Overall, the reptilian and insectoid aesthetic is a go-to choice for alien megafauna, and makes for some twisted creatures.
What we do see, of course. The tentacle monster is effective for what is implied, as is the giant thing in the end. The great pharmacy scene is absolutely terrifying, for what the spiders can do if not for how they look, necessarily. They’re just unfair.
And the ending might be a dealbreaker for some, but I think it’s fine. The Mist is like Oldboy — perfect to spring on people as a weapon. The final moments, the touring through the mist with the operatic music, it’s very Children of Men, and this is another science-fiction film with a very serious approach. Maybe too serious, but highly chilling and intense nonetheless.