Monday, 21 June 2010

Not Seeing Is Believing [Review: The Mist]

David Drayton and his son Billy are trapped at a supermarket along with other inhabitants of their small town when the mist rolls in, bringing with it a succession of horrors and deaths. They can see only a few inches outside the supermarket, naturally all the phones and radios are also dead. As the deaths continue, some survivors turn to religion led by local eccentric Mrs. Carmody and begin to turn on the others.

The Mist is an adaptation of a Stephen King novella. Thomas Jane plays David Drayton, a small town father and artist who is first seen painting an illustration of The Gunslinger. The film is full of biblical themes such as the Revelations end-of-days prophecies, also several of the ten plagues make cameo appearances. It's intense, claustrophobic, gory and shocking, which are all good things. However I thought the ending, which differs from the novella and draws on Job, was painful and perhaps unnecessary (I also think this about Job.)

In early scenes there's a lot of melodrama and hamming, although acting improves a great deal as the movie becomes more intense and the tone darkens. The exception is Marcia Gay Harden, playing the religious and possibly mad Mrs. Carmody, who is convincing and mesmerizing from start to finish.

This is not a simple horror-entertainment movie, particularly given the ending which left me feeling unsettled. There's a lot of cynical religion-bashing and you might think this was the point. However in a short, unexplained scene Mrs. Carmody faces her death but is spared. When Drayton tries to convince the employees of his hunch about danger, they argue against it from a position of rationality. Jumping to conclusions and misplaced conviction is the common thread: the survivors who accept Mrs. Carmody's prophecies, Drayton's ill-fated decision to venture out to the pharmacist which leaves several of his party dead, or his final, terrible choice, Amanda's belief that people are basically good and won't turn to human sacrifice within hours of the siege.

Certainty is the killer whether religious or rational - you can only see a few inches in front of your face, so however sure you feel in your convictions, you can still be wrong, and knowing the limits of your own knowledge is what might have saved you.


Monkey Migraine said...

Great review. I actually wanted to see this movie. Still do. I remember reading this novella for the first time when I heard it was the inspiration for the excellent sci-fi shooter, "Half-Life." I found it one of King's most effective horror stories, the ultimate expression of the idea that the things we don't see are scarier than the things we do see. The part where King described the people going out into the mist and screaming "Get it off of me" before silence was chilling.

At the same time, I didn't think it would work as a movie. The moments where King revealed the monsters in the fog were the least terrifying. Pterodactyls with suction cups for feet? Giant spider? But I did want to see that moment where they drove under the giant six-legged monster. I haven't heard if that's in the movie. If so, I'm renting it tonight.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

The idea that things we don't see are scarier definitely rings true for this film - when it's just sounds in the mist, or a rope that goes slack. When you do see the monsters they are a mixed bag - some do look a bit silly but others, like the tentacles, stand up better.

And yes, that moment you mentioned is in there and it's eerie as hell.

Dyeve said...

Shame on me. The Mist rulesss!
Seems to be the best movie I didn’t see till now and is a a promising one if it's about King Stphen ..and I expect a strange story for sure...

Did you like it? What do you think is missing, or what you have added if you could do that?


Sci-Fi Gene said...

I wouldn't have changed much Dyeve, except some of the creatures might work better if you only saw glimpses of them. Let me know what you think when you get to see it :)