The Mist, borne on its solid, simple premise and strong performances from the cast, makes for a pretty effective horror movie. Sometimes, it even gets close to becoming an instant classic, but along the way, the film takes a few missteps as it wanders off into the realm of political allegory. Overall though, The Mist is probably worth a watch.
After a violent thunderstorm, a small town in California finds itself under siege by strange, monstrous creatures residing in a thick, impenetrable mist. The film follows a group of townspeople who hole up inside a supermarket, just trying to wait for rescue. But as tensions rise and more becomes learned about the monsters, they begin to turn on each other, taking sides based on beliefs, and they find themselves having to defend themselves from more than just the creatures outside.
This is as classic as horror movie plots get. You get a bunch of people with different personalities and beliefs, and you pit them against a seemingly unbeatable, unknowable threat. Put them all in an enclosed space and you have a powder keg of a situation ripe from cinematic explosions. And it works. The story, adapted from a Stephen King novella, really captures the spirit of horror. It’s most triumphant in building up its threat. The monsters here are truly terrifying. They seem to get more dangerous every time we see them. In an age where horror has pretty much devolved into scary things popping out of no where, it’s almost refreshing to see a film really develop a threat, eschewing shock factor in favor of genuine scares.
The story is told pretty well, moving at a logical pace. The problem is that this film doesn’t stop at just being a really good horror film. This movie attempts to portray a thinly veiled political allegory; an awkward commentary on the red state-blue state divide. It gets pretty ridiculous sometimes, often eliciting laughter from the audience. The story is stalled by some really clumsy discussions about politics, theology and philosophy. It’s like they just tried to squeeze in a college lecture in there. I’m all for movies trying to be something more, but this just isn’t the way to do it. It feels really strange and out of place, and it only serves to dull the impact of a story that was otherwise getting interesting.
On the filmmaking side of things, the film is pretty competent, although sometimes, the camerawork can feel a little goofy. It’s like they couldn’t decide between the traditional cinema work and a more natural handheld style, so they picked something in between. It doesn’t always work, and the film sometimes comes out like a weird TV show instead of a big cinema experience. Otherwise, though, the filmmaking is really solid. The designs of the monsters, in particular, are worth mentioning. These creatures are pretty awesome.
Thomas Jane is really underrated. While it’s hard to forget the sins of The Punisher, he really shines here as the tough, grizzled hero. He gives a performance that makes you think he could replace Kiefer Sutherland in the role of Jack Bauer, should they need it. The cast is pretty good in general, and even when things get really strange and political, they manage to keep it together.
All in all, the awkward attempt at political commentary isn’t enough to really detract from the strength of the horror elements. Director Frank Darabont just knows his stuff, and it really shines through, in the end delivering one of the better horror experiences of recent memory.