Review: The Mist

Posted by Peter Hall - November 22nd 2007 @ 9:42 am

Directed and Adapted for the Screen by Frank Darabont from Stephen King’s Novella, 2007

The Mist Theatrical Poster

I have a tendency to be hyperbolic in immediate praise of any movie that really does something for me. As a type of critic, this is a sure flaw, but please understand that I am making a conscious effort to tone down any such bombast in this review. To this effort, let us accept the inevitable:

The Mist is the greatest movie ever made.

Now that the hyperbole is out of the way, let us drift back to the world of objective perspective.

The Mist is a Three Gorges Dam sized reservoir of fucking awesome.  If it were merely 9.43 million cubic miles of standard issue awesome, my turbulent heart may be able to slow to a normal beat, but Frank Darabont is a dark wizard who has mortgaged portions of his soul for the power to conjure a mystical brew that evolves regular awesome to the celestial echelon of fucking awesome.  He places the viewer at the base of his 7,661 foot wide, 607 foot tall retaining wall and then he kicks it down in one fluid act of emotional terrorism, flooding all in a torrent of orgasmic horrors surging towards an orgy of Lovecraftian waves, periodically allowing now delirious minds to surface for rational air before Darabont’s own divine touch shoots through the apocalypse with the precision of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, cutting through all manner of beasts, heading straight for any remaining reservations and drowning them once and for all in a glorious finale that is like baptizing the innocent in a furious ocean of nuclear lava.

For the uninitiated, Stephen King’s original novella The Mist is about an array of local folk who flock to a food mart for supplies after the previous night’s violent storm. While in the store a thick mist rolls over the town, concealing within a host of unidentifiable monsters. Trapped inside, a swath of the town’s public, spearheaded by a father named David Drayton, plot methods of survival while a religious nut, Mrs. Carmody, converts followers to her belief that a blood sacrifice must be made to appease the wrath of God. To the relief of Stephen King fans everywhere, Frank Darabont does nothing to deviate from this brilliant premise and the tremendous characters, both human and non, that populate it.

All would be for naught if Darabont had been unable to assemble the cast he did. As far as the major players are concerned, Thomas Jane turns in a great performance as the hero-by-default David Drayton, Toby Jones kicks all kinds of ass as Ollie, a meek assistant manager before the arrival of the mist, Laurie Holden brings a toned down version of the same situational confidence she had as the police officer in Silent Hill, Andre Braugher nails the misguided paranoia of Drayton’s neighbor, Bret Norton, and Marcia Gay Harden is Gods Damned fierce as Mrs. Carmody, a performance destined to rank high on lists of great human villains in cinema history. The minor players, William Sadler, Chris Owen, Frances Sternhagen, Sam Witwer, David Jensen give it their all, matching the same level of realism as their heavier screen time counterparts.

Every single one of the elements that made King’s story a perfect scenario are intact. The believability of the small town environment. The mystery of the military and their ‘Arrowhead Project’ in the mountains. The psychological breakdown of heroes and anti-heroes. The deft mix of political, scientific and religious arrogance. Creatures of immeasurable horror, inside and outside the human genome. All there, all intact, all as potent as aged TNT. The only significant change is the ending, an invention of Darabont’s own imagination and one that Stephen King has said he wished he thought of.  I guarantee not a single person in theater or, later, in home will have their jaw muscles spared upon experiencing all of The Mist, gentle beginning to rapturous end, for the first time.

The sole complaint to be registered, one I know I will not be alone in sharing, is with the CGI. Perhaps it was budget, perhaps it was Darabont’s first foray into the medium, perhaps it was an intentional aesthetic choice. I speak directly about the tentacle scene in the food mart’s loading dock. The rendered work during that sequence is a disappointment, plain and simple. CafeFX, the outfit responsible for Fantastic 4, Eragon, Snakes on a Plane and Hellboy, might as well have done the effects work for A Sound of Thunder or Jumanji. It would have looked amazing 15 years ago. For a film made in the year 2007 it has a distinct look of the technology of yesteryear. If this was the style Darabont was going for, he slayed it. If not, oh well. Either way any keen eyed viewer will notice, drawing them out, if only for a moment, from the fold of the film’s reality. Once the mind gets used to this visual standard, and even the most cynic viewer will, believe me, it will no longer be a problem: There is a brief creature shot at the end of the film that damn near took my breath away – a creation of such staggering awe I feel comfortable stating as being on par to seeing the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park for the first time.

I love to play around with hyperbole like that found in the second real paragraph of this review, but the final truth, as objective a truth as I feel I can provide, is that The Mist is, hands down, contest over, thanks all who entered, the best horror film of the year Two Thousand and Seven. If you are family oriented, this is a busy time of the year, but please go to every extent possible to set aside 127 minutes to see The Mist in theaters. There will not be a regretful bone in your body, only euphoric satisfaction and a thousand thanks to Frank Darabont for manifesting, once again, as faithful a cinematic Stephen King adaptation as possible by mankind.

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  1. November 26th, 2007 | 2:21 am | #1

    Yes , yes and yes! I’m still too stunned to put my feelings into words so thanks for this. I was blown away like I have not been in a very long time. I have not had that feeling leaving a theater since i was 14. The MIST is classic.

    (jumanji tentacles notwithstanding)

  2. Matt W
    November 26th, 2007 | 2:44 pm | #2

    I hardly wait for reviews to see a movie. I did with this. I guess it was just I had too much hope for it, worried I would be let down and disappointed. It seems this is getting great reviews across the board…I guess I know what I’m doing over the weekend.

  3. November 26th, 2007 | 4:16 pm | #3

    It’s official then. Darabont is the go-to “Stephen King novella” guy. Not a bad niche to fill.

  4. R.J. Sayer
    November 30th, 2007 | 9:25 pm | #4

    sorry, guys.

    hate to interrupt your circle-jerk, but… ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

    after that ending, i will NEVER trust darabont again. how do you make something so perfect and then go and do… THAT…????


  5. December 1st, 2007 | 8:07 am | #5

    The ending is the cherry on top of the Molotov cocktail that is the rest of the movie! I was all about that kick to the face.

  6. R.J. Sayer
    December 1st, 2007 | 12:33 pm | #6

    i was not.

    i felt like darabont was laughing at me for being invested in the characters, and therefore laughing at me for being a monster movie fan.

    it was inconsistent, unnecessary and it completely broke both the rhythm and the tone of the film.

    it wasn’t the ground giving out.

    it was the rug being pulled out from under.

    in the worst of ways.

    i haven’t been so upset with a film’s ending since Haute Tension.

    it was complete bullshit.

    and no, i don’t think that’s what makes it “work”… quite the contrary. i think an ending like that is masturbatory and pointless and renders the rest of the film utterly insignificant.

    for an unsatisfying – even frusturating – ending that actually WORKS, please see No Country For Old Men.

    this… this was just sloppy, lazy, and self-righteous filmmaking.

    also, i’ve never really liked Stephen King. great ideas. terrible writer. big douchebag.

  7. R.J. Sayer
    December 1st, 2007 | 12:43 pm | #7

    i personally feel that the original ending was PERFECT.

    to change that is to say “hey, audience, i think you’re fucking idiots. i don’t trust you to be okay with ambivalence. so i’m going to tie everything up all neat.”

    and to change it in such a drastic way is to say “and just to be a dick about it, i’m going to do the cruelest things i possibly can to these characters and then leave it like that. no hope. no redemption. the status quo is restored for the rest of the world. but for your precious character that you’ve come to love and respect? no. not for him. he gets his life permanently ruined. because i’m a total fucking asshole like that. and just to hammer the point home, i’ll bring back that one character and have her glare at him all mean-like. then you’ll get it. by the way, i totally hate horror and monsters and you guys are all retarded for liking them. fuck you.”

    seriously, i thought at any minute, they’d have an ADR track of God laughing.

    why couldn’t they just leave the ending the way it was? IT WAS PERFECT. ambivalent and creepy with just the right amount of whatever you wanted to take from it. hope and despair in equal measure. no restoration of the status quo. no deus ex machina bullshit. just the change the world has undergone and the faith and/or distrust you have in the characters and their ability to deal with it, culled from the rest of the narrative. seriously. it’s PERFECT.

    to wrap that up is to insult the intelligence of your audience.

    and to so completely destroy that character is to insult their empathy.

    fucked. up.

  8. Matt W
    December 2nd, 2007 | 11:15 am | #8

    I gotta say I’m with Peter. But this is coming from someone who never read the book, and is unaware of what the ‘original ending’ was. (Feel free to spoil it for me, I would gladly like to know)

    Maybe if I knew what the orig ending was, I’d like it more. I was just a bit worried that the final scene would be a military ‘Contingency’ plan (warning 22 year old spoiler) ala Return of the Living Dead where everything goes boom.

    The two people I was with didn’t like the ending much, if anything for the immediate arrival of the army after the deed was done. Where I think regardless of how much time had passed, the character would go through the emotional hell that surely followed.

    Although I don’t think that Jane’s decision in the movie made me respect him less. He did what he thought was best, which to seemed like an overall theme for the film. He left himself alone, a sacrifice (which may be a stretch). He could have done it to himself and leave one of the old people alive, but he left himself to endure the pain that would follow. It’s hard to use the word ‘noble’ and/or ‘heroic’ when a character does something like that, but my vocabulary isn’t good enough to think of something else to use.

  9. December 2nd, 2007 | 11:40 am | #9

    The original novella ended with them passing under the giant creature and heading off into an unknown fate. That’s it.

    My only complaint, which is minor, about Darabont’s end is that Jane acts rather quickly. I don’t think this is a fault of the script, as it was built as a rather inevitable conclusion, more so editing.

  10. Matt W
    December 2nd, 2007 | 6:00 pm | #10

    Thanks Pete, I read a few websites (i.e. Wikipedia) and they ended the synopsis there, I just thought they didn’t want to spoil it.

    I thought Jane’s reaction was due to the act of ‘pulling off a band aid’. To get it over as quick as possible would have been best for Jane’s character and everyone else. To be lost in thought/despair and then have your lights be clicked off seemed like a better fate than to be lost in despair, thinking more and more about how fucked your situation is, and then slowly come to terms and decide upon it. As other hard questions come into play…who pulls the trigger, what order should said person do it in (which was not shown).

    I have it go back to Jane’s hero-by-default status. He takes charge, and does what he needs. Of course the rash decision making seems to be his (and his companions) downfall.

    Rumor has it that the Dark Tower movie series will be done by J.J. Abrams, but I would just love to see Darabont’s perfect vision of King’s stories at the helm. Of course, I would love to read them even more, heh.

  11. R.J. Sayer
    December 5th, 2007 | 2:18 pm | #11

    i’m with you guys about Jane’s character and his decision. it makes total sense.

    what doesn’t make sense to me is why Darabont would put the character in that position, and then bring the army in and restore the status quo so immediately. it’s an “Oh Henry” ending gone completely wrong. and in a place where such an ending isn’t necessary.

    it’s similar to my problem with Shyamalan.

    that stuff works in a 30 min. or hour-long story – like a sci-fi and horror anthology series.

    but in a feature-length film, with such a sweeping, epic narrative, it just doesn’t make sense.

    Jane’s character is not Henry Bemis.

    give me ambivalence over cynicism anyday.

  12. R.J. Sayer
    December 5th, 2007 | 2:18 pm | #12

    it works for the character. but not for the story.

  13. Brian
    December 6th, 2007 | 11:26 pm | #13

    I’m in Mr. Sell’s corner on this one. What did Jane’s character do to deserve that? What is the point? The only reason for that ending is to “shock” the audience. It made zero sense in the context of the movie. I haven’t read the book but whatever ending it had is 100% better than Darabont’s shit-ass ending. Hell, velociraptors could have come down the mountains and fucked Jane in the ass and that would’ve been better.

    Please explain it to me.

  14. December 8th, 2007 | 8:27 am | #14

    I concede the ending does nothing but shock – especially the woman on the truck – but I still don’t see how a shock is such a bad thing. I don’t see it as a big insult to the character or the overall context of the story.

    The function of the mist is to shroud all unseen, unknown horrors. Darabont’s ending is just one more horror hidden by the curtain. Considering the movie’s overt ideology, I think it makes more sense to throw out the previously ambiguous ending in favor of one that paints man as the fallible, unpredictable species we are.

    I’d of been fine with a tense journey into the unknown future, but I’ve got no problem with the future answering instantly from the barrel of a revolver or flame thrower.

  15. Matt W
    December 10th, 2007 | 9:58 am | #15

    “The function of the mist is to shroud all unseen, unknown horrors. Darabont’s ending is just one more horror hidden by the curtain.”

    I gotta say, that’s one aspect I didn’t see…and it sums it up perfectly. One more horror in the mist, and it’s actually ‘hope’.

  16. January 4th, 2008 | 11:47 am | #16

    I’m with ya all the way, man. I thought this one was the best of 2007, hands down.

    That ending was *brutal*. Left me shaken and scarred.


  17. Matt W
    March 25th, 2008 | 4:45 pm | #17

    Well, it hit DVD today. You happen to pick it up? The 2-Disc version has some pretty good features on it.

    In case you didn’t know Darabont introduces and gives a brand new aspect to the film. He shows the film in black and white. He explains why he chose to do it, and I gotta say…the man knows his stuff.

  18. March 25th, 2008 | 6:15 pm | #18

    Haven’t grabbed it yet, though I will. I am very intrigued by this black and white cut, might give it a watch tomorrow.

  19. tarquin
    June 19th, 2008 | 9:52 am | #19

    Finally got a chance to see this whole juggernaut.
    Darabont really delivers up a masterpiece here.

    ..About the ending I really wouldn’t know how I would tie it up myself. I didn’t HATE it or love it, it’s somewhat of a C minus ending to an A plus movie (ie In the mouth of madness). Though, you do have to appreciate every character inside the truck yelling not to reach for the gun upon leaving the food mart, as if they knew instinctively it tied to their own fate(s).

    This is a little vintage, but maybe i would’ve froze the shot on the kids face in terror, played the sound of the 4 shots. And have drayton screaming as screen fades to black. Continued screaming in black screen. Either fade back in with the convoy here and drayton on his knees mouth dropped open in awe, or fade back in after the credits.
    And this is just for editing if we have to go with this ending at all.

  20. Podboy
    June 22nd, 2008 | 2:10 am | #20

    I’m in RJ’s camp on this one… I loved the original novella, and was totally into the movie until the last ten minutes. I believe the original novella actually ends with Drayton and crew reaching an empty diner, where he writes down the story of what happened. You know that he and the other survivors are going to continue on in search of others, uncertain about what they’ll find or how long they can drive. I loved the original ending because – as pointed out above – it’s that perfect combination of hope and despair. Like the ending of The Thing – a classic.

    To me, the original story was about the power of human perserverance and hope, even in hopeless situations. Drayton and the other “survivors” don’t just sit around and wait to die. They are going to keep going, driven by some sliver of hope, because that’s what heroes do. Drayton is a great “everyman hero” in that he’s put into an impossible position, but he is eventually stubborn and willful enough to just keep moving — and all for his son.

    The film’s ending destroys the central theme and the character for me – Drayton gets punished for trying to do the right thing, and then when he gives up all hope and tries to keep a promise to his son, he’s punished again, even more brutally.

    And the fact that we’re shown other survivors suggests that the folks who decided to give into the mob mentality (or who just give up altogether) and wait it out in the market also survived. This drives me insane… It again destroys the central theme, and at least one of the secondary themes (“Religious fanaticism is dangerous” – the religious fanatics are, in fact, rewarded for their blind faith).

    And what does showing the woman who bolted in search of her kids meant to suggest? That Drayton and his son (and maybe even his wife) would have survived had Drayton been a hero from the outset and left with that woman when she asked for his help?

    Again, I loved the movie until those last few minutes… My favorite horror movies are the ones where you actually root for the hero, and are satisfied and exalted when they overcome the monster(s). Here, I felt like I was asked to root for Drayton, and then smack in the face for doing so.

  21. June 22nd, 2008 | 9:19 pm | #21

    I can sympathize with both of you on your disappointment, but I still feel the ending compliments the rest of the film. I do think the editing shouldn’t have been so hasty once the car runs out of gas, but I think the arc of it and what greets Drayton outside makes perfect sense as the final of the unseen horrors hidden by the Mist.

    I think the survivors are an equally welcome bit of cruelty. Just a further boot to the face; shit happens to the wrong and the right people with equal velocity. For all our domain, all our trying, fate just isn’t fair. I think that last, all too true acknowledgment falls perfectly in step with the rest of the film’s balanced (albeit depressing) life.

  22. Sean
    June 22nd, 2008 | 9:33 pm | #22

    I think your comments screwed up, Peter. R.J. is posting two different views, thar.

  23. R.J. Sayer
    June 23rd, 2008 | 5:13 am | #23

    oh man, my Mist-Darabont-Ending-Hating Army is growing in number and weaponry!

    soon, we shall be too large a force to contain.

    we will swell and spill into the streets and FIGHT FOR WHAT IS RIGHT.

    we will slaughter and pillage and blow shit up until Darabont changes that fucking ending back to the way it goddamn should be!!!


  24. Brian
    June 23rd, 2008 | 9:25 am | #24

    My comment here makes me wonder…R.J. = Sell? If not, who the hell is “Mr. Sell”?

  25. June 23rd, 2008 | 2:34 pm | #25

    Aye Brian, you’ve cracked the code. Mr. Sell was on the run, R.J. Sayer was the identity he took.

  26. R.J. Sayer
    June 24th, 2008 | 5:36 am | #26

    you lousy motherfuckers (R.I.P. George Carlin).

    you’ve blown my goddamn cover?


    time to run further.

  27. pingback

    […] even if you want to bury your head in the sand, it could hardly be considered the best.  Not when THE MIST, [REC], or THE ORPHANAGE are playing in the big […]

  28. June 26th, 2008 | 8:19 am | #28

    Heh, I finally saw this one, re-read this review, and I managed to disagree with all of you.

    This movie was lousy all the way through. Overacting, an eye-rolling script, lousy looking monsters, cheap telegraphed jump scares and an ending that punches holes straight through the character of the only guy worth investing any time into.

    ***Spoiler Warning***

    “Hello, I’m David Drayton. I wrestled a bladed tentacle while others stood helpless. I faced-off with a nutso religious mob who wanted to use my son as a sacrifice to a vengeful god. I ran selflessly for medicine and faced off with acid shooting spiders. I persevered, and I escaped. But now that *my car ran out of gas*, I guess it’s time to shoot my kid in the face!”

  29. May 24th, 2009 | 5:25 pm | #29

    For those of you here that would prefer to see the BOOK ending in the Frank Darabont film, check out the fanedit I created, complete with replacement ending, additional new footage, chapter headings, etc…called ‘The Novella Cut’…

    Hope ya like it…;)


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