The Mist
THE MIST. 2007
Director: Frank Darabont

DREW STRUZAN:
AN APPRECIATION OF AN ARTIST
. 2008
Director: Jamie Boulton

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



The Mist The ominous mood of The Mist (2007) starts rather too soon in the story. There's been a terrible storm & a young mother (Kelly Collins Lintz) gets all worried about mist on the lake.

Sure, it will turn out to be a monster-filled mist, but the mist we're shown would be normal on a lake, & the timing for worries is ridiculous. It's like the characters already assume they're in a seedy monster movie & are just going along with bad schtick.

One of Stephen King's greatest stories, at novella length, The Mist was previously adapted in 1984 a ZBS radio play of the highest merit. With a cast of thirty-five & three months in production, probably more went into the radio version than the film. Certainly more art & imagination went into it; it's one of the greatest radio plays of all time.

It has failed to translate nearly so well to the screen. It could've been a whole lot better if the creative team -- primarily the director-screenwriter & the film editor -- had had a clue about effective timing.

The MistThe premise is that a mist surrounds a supermarket, & anyone who goes out into the mist is quickly gobbled up by unseen monstrosities.

So it's an easy decision for most to remain holed up with plenty of supplies. Again with unconvincing timing, it only takes a few hours before adults & families begin to divide up into warring tribes.

Tentacled monsters have not yet been seen by everyone, so the division into superstitious versus rationalist tribes is a premature development.

Mother Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) is a totally religious nutsack full of hate, certain that God's wrath is upon the world. She wants to make a human sacrifice, & increasing numbers of worried citizens line up as her followers, eager to kill.

And again sure, hyper-religious sociopaths do exist & are eager to cause harm. Yet the swiftness of Mother's ability to gain converts is not credibly presented.

The MistSometimes the mist's giant bugs, reaching tentacles, & leathery birds seem more likely premises than these people's easy belief that killing somebody will clear the mist, or the likelihood of devolving into mindless predators in a matter of hours.

Perhaps a few fundamentalist nutbags will relate to Mother Carmody & feel insulted by the film's clear preference for rational people.

But not every rational person is all that likeable, either. Andre Braugher plays his close-minded rationalist a bit too close to a cliche of "angry black man." He exists, like all too many token black guys in white stories, to be the quickest reduced to a few remnant pieces of meat.

The point of view character is David Drayton (Thomas Jane) whose relationship with his son Billy (Nathan Gamble) is another element Stephen King handled, in the original printed tale, with deep understanding of family, but which left the writer-director befuddled about what to have a child actor do.

The MistAlso on the rational side is Ollie (Toby Jones), the nerdy little guy who works the cash register, but who instantly becomes one of the heroes.

There are a few others on the side of not killing each other, but the majority of the the store's patrons take only two days to turn into a primitivist mob with bloodlust.

It's becoming increasingly difficult for the few who are sane to figure whether its more dangerous outside or inside. All this long before supplies & survival seem questionable.

The military "Arrowhead Project" is the source of the dimensional monsters, taken rather too literally in this revision, it was all much more mysterious & artfully surreal in King's original tale.

With the store ruled by religious psychos, the few who are sane decide to make a dash for a truck & escape. Mother Carmody & her congregation of small town nutters will do what they can to keep them from escaping, planning to kill the enemy outright & sacrifice the child ritually.

The MistThe film is part Lord of the Flies but with adults instead of kids & a much more synoptic descent, & part The Exterminating Angel (1962) which found a group at a dinner party trapped in a single room to approach their situation as survivalists.

The Mist could've been a great film based on a great story but in its most effective minutes, it's only adequate commercial horror. And then whatever small effectiveness it does achieve goes all to pieces in the rotten climax in the truck.

The ending, alas, is unusually stupid & badly acted, though King's story ended superbly & why they didn't stick to that is anybody's wonder. King himself, probably just being a well-paid sport about it, praised the director-screenwriter's ending, not noticing it seems to spring right out of some other movie entirely.

The MistKing even faulted his own ending as pollyanna-ish. In reality the original ending preserves the mysteriousness & lets a very few survive not to be pollyanna about it, but because the greater marvels of a permently altered Earth need characters we know to be witness of a new order. We're left with the possibility of survival in a frightening world which may well not have any other human beings in it. That was a powerful conclusion.

As the novella was written, it was awesome stuff. But as revised by Frank Darbont, it ends as a maudlin cartoon unintentional joke of a tragedy.

The actors quite understandably couldn't do shit with it, it was like trying to make drama out of dirty limericks. Darabont laughably called his ending "muscular," though it's completely whiny; perhaps he thoguht "muscular" was a synonym for "wussy."

Drew StruzanIt did have good monster designs by Bernie Wrightson, brought to life by the same FX studio who did Pan's Labyrinth (2006). So some bits are praiseworthy. The film wasn't great at any point in the retelling, but it wasn't all that bad until the end, which smells so rotten it nearly spoils the whole attempt.



One of the extras on a dvd release of The Mist is the hastily done documentary Drew Struzan: An Appreciation of an Artist (2008).

It consists of an interview with the film's poster artist, together with an appreciation by the director of The Mist, & the opinions of others impressed with Struzan's work. Struzan is responsible for scores of familiar movie posters (for Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, ad infinitum) which have all the originality of college dean portraits traced from photographs.

The bad drawing of Clint Eastwood's The Good, the Bad & the Ugly character placed on an alien world is supposed to be "the Gunslinger" of Stephen King's horror-westerns. The art is so abjectly just an advertisemet, & so void of originality, it is almost comical to hear such over-the-top praise for what is basically cartoony & generic.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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