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The Mist

Year: 2007
Production Co: Darkwoods Productions
Director: Frank Darabont
Producer: Frank Darabont
Writer: Frank Darabont/Stephen King
Cast: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler
Every time a huge mid year blockbuster descends upon us, the filmmakers all try to convince moviegoers it's about the characters. They're seemingly unaware - or just don't want to admit - that most of us go to see the monster flatten the city or the asteroid strike the earth.

Stephen King's 1980 anthology Dark Forces contained the novella upon which the film is based, and to the author it was the way the people reacted to the crisis that interested him. The otherworldly beasts and potential for special effects mattered not a jot to him, merely a MacGuffin to keep a group of people trapped while their loyalties jostle along with their increasing desperation.

When a small town Dad (Thomas Jane) takes his son to the supermarket the night after a violent storm, a thick mist descends over town, closing the supermarket off in an impenetrable fog. To say too much about what the fog hides would give away the payoff, but you only have to watch the trailer to see it contains an assortment of horrific and hungry creatures.

With the devout, evangelical Mrs Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) slowly convincing everyone the onslaught of blood and death is the end of days, and the neighbour still on icy terms with David after a year-old lawsuit (Andre Braugher) refusing to believe the crazy stories of monsters, the situation inside the store crumbles as fast as that outside.

Many of King's traditional themes combine with post 9/11 jitteriness; religious fundamentalism, the power of charisma, the struggle of the everyman. The monsters were almost redundant to his tale, mere set dressing of a horror story. In his hands the human power plays were handled with thrilling deftness, but as is often the case when a director adapts his work, the movie version comes across too preachy about the message. Some of the latter battle-of-wills scenes are too simplistic and don't ring true.

This isn't the first time Darabont has adapted King (he did so in 1994's The Shawshank Redemption and 1999's The Green Mile), but it's the first crack he's had at a King horror story. He succeeds in producing the grimy, handheld feel still trendy in horror movies and doesn't revert to cheap scares, the tension instead bubbling over rather than exploding in sudden bloodshed.

The final scene is depressingly downbeat and an invention of Darabont's, King having ended the story at an earlier pivotal moment. It seems unnecessary apart from making the hero suffer in the cruellest way.

For effects fans, there are several realistic scenes of CGI. Ironically the scariest isn't the attacking beasts but the curtain of fog closing over the supermarket while fearful shoppers run for their cars.

Together with 1408, this will go some way to restoring King's onscreen reputation, but it still misses the finer details of his written work.

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