With his chilling, ultimately bleak adaptation of The Mist, writer/director Frank Darabont once again successfully channels Stephen King's twisted psyche on the big screen.
More than just the frighteningly awful things that go bump in this particularly nasty fog, The Mist is really a morality play about how fear and paranoia feed on a panicked, scared group of people looking for some semblance of sanity about what's happening to them. Set in a small Maine town (where else in a King story?), local denizen David Drayton (Thomas Jane), his young son Billy (Nathan Gamble) and several townsfolk are trapped in a local grocery store by a strange, wraithlike mist. Even though they are warned early on that there are "things in the mist" killing people, not everyone in the store believes it. But when it becomes evident all is indeed not well, terror begins to build, fueled by a religious zealot (Marcia Gay Harden) who starts preaching fire and brimstone--and, eventually, human sacrifice--in order to appease a vengeful God. Rational thought is quickly thrown out the window to the point that David begins to wonder what terrifies him more: the monsters in the mist or the ones inside the store--the human kind, the people who until now had been his friends and neighbors. He decides he'll take his chances in the mist.
Darabont has collected a fine ensemble cast, starting with Jane (The Punisher) as the film's capable Everyman, just trying to make sense of the horror unfolding while keeping his son as safe as possible. As little Billy, Gamble (Babel) is quite affective, especially when he turns on the waterworks and calls for his mother, who must be food for the gods at this point. Also scarily good is Oscar-winner Harden as the religious nut, who inevitably whips her burgeoning flock into a murderous tizzy. Other standouts include: Andre Braugher as one of the non-believers, who has a running beef with his neighbor, David; Toby Jones (Infamous) as a rational grocery store clerk with a wicked aim; Laurie Holden (Silent Hill) as a kindly newcomer and mother figure for Billy; Sam Witwer (TV's CSI) as a doomed U.S. soldier who gives the reason why the mist has come upon them; and veteran character actors Frances Sternhagen and Jeffrey DeMunn (who is also a Darabont staple) as David's allies in escaping the store. All are very capable at their jobs.
Maybe Darabont and King are twins, separated at birth. No other writer--or director, for that matter--has been quite as successful as Darabont in capturing the true essence of a King novel, evident in both of Darabont's Oscar-nominated King adaptations, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. This is the first time Darabont has tackled one of King's horror stories, but the writer/director innately understands what makes King's The Mist a terrifying experience. Much like John Carpenter did with The Thing, Darabont's well-written script focuses on the human factor--the fear-feeding frenzy these ordinary people get themselves caught up in, showing how human nature can ultimately be more horrifying than any monster. But of course, Darabont has to reveal The Mist's otherworldly creatures, or the movie wouldn't be complete. He visualizes King's vivid descriptions of the monster attacks as best he can, but unfortunately The Mist's special effects come off a tad sub-par, especially in this day and age. Still, The Mist should keep you riveted until the final moments--a rather depressing new ending Darabont wrote himself, with King's thumbs-up approval.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.