When a freak storm erupts over a small town and a mysterious mist descends on it from nearby mountains, the community heads to the local store for supplies in the wake of power cuts and damage to their homes by uprooted trees. But as soldiers from the nearby army base appear on the roads, it becomes clear the pea soup visiblity outside is no ordinary low cloud. A bleeding old man warns there is something meancing in the mist — and suddenly the one-stop shop becomes a refuge for the scared and mystified community.
In the past, Stephen King’s style of horror has not always lent itself to a satisfying live action experience. The scary clown of It lost its impact when a sudden transformation rendered him laughable while Dreamcatcher was a mess from start to finish. The Mist may have some dodgy special effects at times, but the social commentary caused by claustrophic conditions and an increasingly tense group of people looking for a saviour.
After a lightning storm uproots tress and cuts the power to a quiet town in Maine, lakeside resident Dave Drayton (Thomas Jane) sets off with his son Billy (Nathan Gamble) and neighbour Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) to stock up on supplies. En route they see troops from a local army base driving in the opposite direction as a spreading mist quickly descends and engulfs them. At the busy store they are shocked when three young soldiers are ordered to leave by their commanding officer and later a blood-covered residents tells them not to leave or risk their lives. At first the packed-in locals remain calm, but when Dave sees a teenager attacked by giant tentacles when he steps outside, its obvious the mist is more than just a weather condition — however, convincing the rest of the store is another matter altogether.
This Stephen King horror adaptation is effective until the last scene.
The strength of The Mist lies in way the rising fears of a cross-section of the community seeks reassurance in their safety. All initally seem happy to ride out the situation, yet when Dave tells them of his discovery, its not so easy for them to all to accept the situation leading to a rouge group to venture forth for help. Panic sets in when giant bugs attack and suddenly the evangelical Mrs Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) finds her preachings once dismissed as lunacy herald the start of a new religious movement.
The forboding mood is steadily as gory attacks from ever-stranger and more dangerous creatures is mixed with long periods of debate and arguments between the residents as factions form with different solutions to the mysterious problem. There is a worry that the King curse of becoming too ludicrous for the screen might happen again here, especially with the special effects verging on the cheap side. Thankfully Darabont focuses on the rise of Mrs Carmody’s religion-fuelled mob justice and any explanation of the reason for the mist becomes a triviality compared to how the few standing up to Mrs Cambody will make an escape. Tapping into the rarely-experienced human fear of fighting for your life against hardened predators together with having those you once trusted turning on you gives The Mist a much more gripping handle with which to turn a morally draining twist for maximum impact: this Stephen King horror adaptation is effective until the last scene.