Writ. and Dir. Frank Darabont; feat. Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Toby Jones, Andre Braugher (R)
At this point, it’s pretty impossible to say just how many of Stephen Kings’ books, novellas, and short stories have been adapted as television and big-screen movies. In fact, you would probably need some sort of physics degree and super-computer named HAL to calculate the exact number. Frank Darabont is one of the chief offenders, having now adapted four of King’s babies to the screen, including The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and, most recently, The Mist. Unlike dramas Shawshank and Green Mile, though, his latest is an old-school monster movie designed to scare the hell out of you from start to finish.
David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his son head into town to fetch some groceries — after a storm thrusts a tree through their house’s window — only to find themselves trapped in the grocery store when a mysterious mist rolls in. A frantic local runs inside, insisting there’s something in the mist, too — something that got his friend. A few hours later, as the customers cower and wonder what’s outside, Drayton and some others open the loading dock door – only to be attacked by a giant tentacle. This understandably freaks everybody out, but also serves to divide the customers between those who believe the best thing to do is to stay put (like David), and those who want to run for help, perhaps from the local, mysterious military base that seems a lot like Area 51. Those who opt to stay struggle to survive the next two nights, attacked by mysterious insects, winged dinosaur-like creatures, and mutant spiders, all the while collapsing under Lord of the Flies-grade hysteria fueled by a clichéd religious fanatic played by Marcia Gay Harden.
The Mist’s conclusion, the sort of maddening, cynical twist George A. Romero might dream up, is a sickening punch to the gut — though lacking any of Romero’s social relevance. The movie ultimately (and disappointingly) says nothing, an anomaly in Darabont’s masterful oeuvre. Still, along with the recent 30 Days of Night, it could go a long way toward resuscitating the monster movie, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing in this writer’s opinion.