The Mist
dir-scr Frank Darabont
with Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Toby Jones, Andre Braugher, Frances Sternhagen, Nathan Gamble, William Sadler, Sam Witwer, Alexa Davalos, Jeffrey DeMunn, Chris Owen
release US 21.Nov.07; UK 27.Jun.08
07/US Dimension 2h06
The Mist
Shop of horrors: the townsfolk with Jane and Gamble (right)

harden jones braugher
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Mist Creepy and insinuating, this Stephen King-based thriller is unusually dark and gritty, with ace B-movie writing and direction from Darabont and a collection of full-on performances from a gifted cast.

After a big storm, a strange mist rolls into town along with a military convoy and rumours about a project dealing with missiles or maybe alien spacecraft. Dave (Jane) and his son Billy (Gamble) are in the supermarket when the murky air arrives, and they become trapped with increasingly frantic townsfolk, including a holier-than-thou religious nut (Harden), the shop's jittery manager (Jones) and a narrow-minded grump (Braugher). Soon it's clear that there's something horrific in the fog, and the only level-headed person Dave can find in the shop is Amanda (Holden).

Darabont tells this claustrophobic story in a skilfully straightforward style, avoiding goofy asides to concentrate on the nastiness at hand. Even the genre set pieces are done with ruthless brutality, such as when the couple (Witwer and Davalos) sneaks off for a snog and we know they're doing the very thing that will doom them in a film like this. But it's not camp and funny here; it's terrifying. This also gives the entire film an edge, which makes the comedy and irony even blacker.

The star of the show is Harden's outrageous fanatic, who she plays in full-on Oscar-winner mode, chomping on the scenery with even more vigour than the monsters lurking in the mist. Yes she's a standard King character, but Harden brings her to life with vivid fervour. And this level of acting infuses the entire cast, who play their carefully outlined roles with far more attention to detail than most horror movie casts.

As a result, the film has an unusual level of power to unsettle us. Darabont makes the mist look alive long before tentacles start snaking out of it. And King's collection of close-minded, incredulous, cowardly characters is so realistic that the film becomes chilling on several layers, allowing true heroism to emerge from unexpected places. This also adds some potent political commentary, although the parable is slightly obvious, and gives the entire film a kind of Twilight Zone aura. At least Darabont has the nerve to go for an ending we never see coming.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, grisliness 31.Mar.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall