(Another golden oldie during your faithful blogger’s weeklong R&R. To stay up to the minute, follow my Twitter feed on this page or at @joesview)
Adapted from a Stephen King novella by writer-director Frank Darabont (who performed the same chores on two other King stories, “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile”), “The Mist” (2007) came and went with unusual speed.
At the time, I couldn’t figure out if the fast flop was due to a poor promotional campaign or the fact that the movie was simply too bleak for mainstream audiences looking for a few cheap thrills.
Most end-of-the-world stories start after whatever disaster has caused the collapse of civilization. “The Mist” begins casually in a small Maine town, on an ordinary day, as chaos slowly descends on people who are caught in the middle of that most mundane of chores — shopping in a supermarket.
A strange mist envelops the parking lot — some people think it’s nothing, others sense impending danger — and before you know it, a very believable mix of ordinary Americans is trapped together wondering what the hell they should do.
Darabont appears to have studied Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” in the design and execution of this claustrophobic horror film.
Just as in those two classics, the trapped people start fighting among themselves, with a very scary faction forming around a religious hysteric played by Marcia Gay Harden (left, the most believable character of this type since Piper Laurie played Carrie White’s mad mother in the 1976 King adaptation, “Carrie”).
What could have been just another B-horror movie — in the vein of John Carpenter’s “The Fog” — is elevated by Darabont’s terrific casting. Thomas Jane (of the HBO series “Hung”) leads a tip-top ensemble that includes Frances Sternhagen, Andre Braugher, William Sadler and Toby Jones.
The creatures that come out of the mist — the result of a military experiment gone terribly wrong — are truly frightening, but it’s the way the trapped and scared people turn on each other that makes this tale of fantasy feel all too horribly real.