Suzanne, Christian and I all piled into the Mafusmobile and went to see THE MIST today. I've been looking forward to this one for many years since I first read Stephen King's novella. King's story was one of his most perfect works, equal parts Lovecraft and Romero and yet uniquely King. King's story was creepy as all hell, leaving plenty to the imagination while still showing you just enough of what was going on to freak you the @#!& out. And his ending, while bleak, still left the reader satisfied and hopeful.
I was so excited when I heard Frank Darabont was directing the film version. I've long held that Darabont is one of very few directors who "get" King. Or, rather, know how to adapt King to the screen. I'm as big a King fan as they come but even I understand that some aspects of his work are better left on the page and just don't translate. (Like his dialogue for instance.) This is why I was so disappointed in THE MIST. Man, what a missed opportunity.
I'll keep it simple so I won't spoil anything for those who want to see it.
The biggest problem I had with the film was that it was boring. If you can believe that. Though Darabont sticks close to the source material until the almost the end, there's no real sense of urgency. Part of it is that Darabont sticks TOO close to King's book. There's a lot of stuff in there that plays great when you're reading it but plods along like a drunk hippopotamus when you're watching it. Darabont could have cut 20 minutes out of this film easily and not hurt the story at all. Another reason is that, sadly, Thomas Jane was either miscast or just not interested. I like Jane, usually. I thought he was great in DEEP BLUE SEA and BOOGIE NIGHTS and that he was the only good thing about the PUNISHER movie. But this role required an actor with a lot of range and I just don't think he had it in him. In scenes where his eyes should have been popping out of his head, he reacted like he just discovered something nasty under his fingernail. In one scene in particular, Jane's character, overcome, is supposed to be crying. Not a single tear and his expression barely changes. Jane should take crying lessons from Milla Jovavich.
Another complaint is that Darabont shows us too much. In King's story, the larger creatures in the mist are barely-described, shadowy shapes. Darabont chooses to show us well defined silhouettes that, frankly, aren't all that scary. In horror, less is often more. The entire movie is too brightly lit and, when the boogeymen show up, you can see every nook and cranny. And, unfortunately, the effects just aren't up to snuff. In particular, the tentacle scene in the stockroom is so badly paced that you have too much time to study the badly-realized CG effects. The tentacles move around sluggishly as if the creature itself was bored with the movie and the compositing isn't what you'd expect from such a big-budget production. It FELT like CG effects and that's bad.
My final complaint is with the ending. Since I don't want to spoil it, I won't go into detail. If you haven't read King's story, you may like it. If you have read it, you'll be outraged. King's final scene put a poignant, poetic ending on a creepy, well-plotted story. Darabont strangely decided to veer off into a completely different direction and I'm not sure why. Maybe he thought audiences wouldn't tolerate such a quiet, ambiguous finish to a violent horror movie. But that's what people said about Carpenter's THE THING and it's now a cult phenomenon. (In fact, the poster for that movie makes an appearance early in the film.)
All in all, I think this movie would have benefited from a smaller budget. Without the money to create all those CG creatures and gore effects, Darabont may have been forced to rely more on atmosphere, sound design and convincing performances to pull of his film. Years ago, I listened to an audio-only dramatization of THE MIST on tape, sort of like those old-time radio productions before the advent of TV. It scared the hell out of me. Maybe Darabont should have listened to it before sitting down to plan this film.