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.