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Laramie Movie Scope:
Stephen King's The Mist

An old style horror film for the 21st Century

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 22, 2007 -- “The Mist” is an exceptional horror film spawned by Stephen King, a master of the genre. It is gripping and suspenseful with a powerful ending. I did not like the ending, but I'm not going to deduct points from the film simply because it has an unconventional ending. I won't say what kind of ending it is or why I did not like it because that would give away the surprise if you haven't seen the film.

The story starts out with a record-breaking storm that cuts off power to a small community. David Drayton (played by Thomas Jane of “The Punisher”), his son, Billie (Nathan Gamble) and next-door neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braugher of “Poseidon”) head to the supermarket to get groceries, while Drayton's wife stays home. On the way to the store, they see a large convoy of military vehicles. While in the store, a mysterious fog (this film is not to be confused with the two much weaker horror films called “The Fog”) rolls in. A man spattered with blood comes screaming out of the fog yelling that something in the fog has grabbed someone and dragged them away. Later, a store employee is attacked and dragged away by large octopus-like tentacles which reach into the store though an open door. David Drayton and a few others witnesses the attack and are convinced there is some terrible menace in the fog. He and the other witnesses of the attack in a back room of the store try to convince the rest of the people of the danger of going outside.

Most of the people in the store are too scared to go out into the fog, but a few are unconvinced there is any danger. A group led by Brent Norton head out into the fog. One volunteer goes out to get a shotgun from a car in the store's parking lot with a long rope tied about his waist. He is attacked by something unseen in the fog and does not return. The remainder of the people in the store set about to barricade the plate glass windows in the front of the store and to seek weapons to defend themselves from the unseen menace. As the siege continues, an unstable woman, Mrs. Carmody, becomes a kind of prophet, preaching that the menace in the fog is the wrath of God and that human sacrifices are needed to appease God. As panic and fear spread, Mrs. Carmody gains more followers. It soon becomes clear to the non-believers that Mrs. Carmody and her followers are more dangerous than whatever is outside and they will have to make a run for it. Mrs. Carmody clearly wants to kill all the unbelievers (and anyone else she doesn't like) and is gaining more power with each passing hour.

It is finally revealed that the monsters in the fog are the result of an interdimensional rift caused by a science experiment gone wrong at a nearby military base. This knowledge does not stop the religious fanatics from seeking blood atonement. The movie makes the argument that very bad things happen when religious zealots get total political power. It also makes the argument that mob rule takes over very quickly once the thin veneer of civilization is stripped away. It also makes the argument that people will do anything, including murder, to survive. This movie runs on pure suspense driven by the naked will to survive. Like great horror films that have gone before (“The Exorcist,” “Jaws”) explicit violence is kept to a minimum. The monsters in the mist remain hidden for the first hour or so of the film. Suspense and fear, not graphic violence, are the main tools of this film. In the final analysis, what is in the fog is not important. What is important is that people maintain their humanity and values in the face of fear. In this film, they fail.

Director Frank Darabont (“The Majestic,” “The Shawshank Redemption”) does a nice job maintaining suspense and getting the most out of a limited grocery store set. Thomas Jane gives an excellent performance as a man trying to protect his son in the face of a growing menace. Marcia Gay Harden gives a truly scary performance as the religious fanatic and the rest of the cast is solid, including veteran actress Frances Sternhagen (“Outland”) and Laurie Holden (“Silent Hill”). This is certainly one of the best horror films of this century, and given the weakness of the genre, it may well be one of the best of all time. It harkens back to the so-called golden age of cinema in the 1970s when films with this kind of uncompromising political and social edge were the norm. This film rates a B+.

A few additional notes (added August 31, 2018. I finally saw Frank Darabont's preferred version of this film, included in the “Two disc collector's edition.” I bought the DVD for a dollar at a pawn shop, but the collector's edition is also available in the blu-ray format. Darabont's introduction to the film, included in this collector's edition, explains why the black and white version of this film is his preferred version, as it was his original vision for this film.

I watched the black and white version of the film last night, and it is indeed more powerful, perhaps because its cynical view of human nature is increasingly supported by recent events. These troubling trends include, but are not limited to, the rise of Nazis and white supremacists, the increasing influence of religious extremists, the rise of “alternative facts” through government-linked media and social media, the decline of science, and scientific research due to faith-based attacks and the related decrease in research funding, and the increasing trends toward less science-based education and less rational, more tribal, decision-making in politics.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2007 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)