Shocked by The Mist
Netflix finally decided that my wife and I were worthy enough for them to ship us a copy of The Mist starring Thomas Jane and Marcia Gay Harden. The DVD has been in our cue since late last year. It was a pleasure to finally see this great Stephen King novella adapted into film. With Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) at the helm, we were naturally expecting another great portrayal of one of King’s works. But I don’t think Laura and I were expecting the slap-in-the-face ending that Darabont saw fit to add to the piece.
The first scene of The Mist is a thrill for Stephen King fans. Darabont throws a bone to King readers by depicting the lead character, David Drayton, painting a movie poster in his studio. The poster is a rendering of The Dark Tower, with the Gunslinger in the foreground. The DVD contains a featurette regarding real-life movie poster artist Drew Struzan, whom Darabont commissioned to paint the piece for the film. If I understand the information on the artist’s site correctly, the painting has already sold, for anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. Hope it went to a very big Dark Tower fan.
After watching the entire movie, Laura and I were interested enough to go back and rewatch the opening shots to see all the paintings hanging in the background of the first locale. With some luck, I was able to stop the DVD player on a frame close to the one I’ve captured to the left. The character’s studio is filled with Drew Struzan pieces, including (from left to right) Pan’s Labyrinth, (Stephen King called it his favorite film that year. It still ranks as my all-time fave), John Carpenter’s The Thing (another paranoia film where people fraction in the face of supernatural horror), The Shawshank Redemption, and two original studio pieces featuring clowns wearing masks. The masks motif is interesting as metaphor, considering the plot’s resolution.
As The Mist begins, a terrible storm strikes a small Maine town. After hiding all night in his cellar with his family, David Drayton emerges to find his property severely damaged. Although his neighbor’s dead tree has crushed Drayton’s boathouse, he still makes nice with the pompous attorney. They notice a strange mist hovering over the surface of the lake, but nonetheless head off to town to pick up supplies. While they shop at the local food mart, the mist takes over the town and reduces outdoor visibility to less than five feet. The grocery store denizens soon learn that hideous monsters hide in the mist, waiting to devour hapless wanderers.
After a truly gruesome scene involving an overeager teen and a whole lot of tentacles, Drayton and a few others manage to convince the rest of the customers not to go outside. But lurking amidst the shoppers is Mrs. Carmody, a religious fanatic already teetering on the brink of sanity. Carmody (remarkably portrayed by Marcia Gay Harden, one of my fave actresses since Miller’s Crossing) has a Bible verse at the ready for every new horror visited upon the store denizens. As one character after another is mercilessly slain by mostly unseen horrors lurking in the swirling fog outside, Carmody ends up promising her soul to a giant bug that lands on her torso (“My life for you,” she says, a line also uttered by another famous Stephen King psychopath in The Stand). After this cathartic moment, other people in the store begin following the madwoman’s rants, until eventually she leads a majority of the survivors in a religious fervor. When she convinces her followers that a sacrifice must be made of blood, Drayton takes his son and eight others out into the mist to take their chances. Only five of them manage to make it to his car, and they drive away.
This next section of the review contains story spoilers and discussion, please skip the rest of this review and don’t click the page link below unless you have seen the film.