The Mist

More properly Stephen King’s The Mist, of course, but I’m in denial about having seen yet another horror flick. I don’t know where I find the courage. But I survived this one a lot better than The Others, at least. It’s scary the way zombie movies are scary, and I can usually deal with those a lot better than ghost movies for some reason. I don’t know why, they’re both about dead people.
Anyway, this movie uses tentacles, but it’s still about impossible things grabbing unsuspecting victims and trying to eat them. Now, I don’t freak out at just tentacles, and I don’t mind spiders — anything up to eight legs is okay. But several of these tentacled thingies also have about a zillion legs, and that’s just too much like millipedes for me. Gah.
I don’t know how much like the story the film is, but I imagine the basics are the same: After a terrible storm hits a small New England town, leaving a thick, mysterious mist in its wake, the residents go to the local Food Shop to stock up. Of course, the time to stock up is before the storm, but better late than never. Our hero, David Drayton (Thomas Jane, who played the Punisher in the 2004 movie of the same name, but don’t hold that against him) is in the store with his son Billy when a bit player runs in screaming that there’s something terrible in the mist and no one should leave.
The obligatory extra disbelieves everything and runs out to his car, and the last we hear of him is his dying scream. Then things just get worse. As one character points out, as soon as you get more than two people in a room, they start choosing sides. When you have several dozen people stuck in one store, add in a freakish mist and a couple of strange deaths, you know you’re going to have serious problems, even aside from the Bible-thumping maniac Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) running around winding everyone up.
Now she does a good job with the part, because she’s a good actress, but in the end, many of the characters end up being stereotypes. Aside from Mother Carmody and her “Sinner Repent” routine, there’s the dryly sarcastic but good-hearted motorcycle guy; David’s neighbor and champion of Logical Thinking (Andre Braugher, General Hager from Rise of the Silver Surfer); and of course the redneck mechanic who hates anyone he didn’t grow up with.

The cast gaping at a giant praying mantis thing.

But on the other hand, some stereotypes get shaken up in neat ways. The little old lady schoolteacher Irene, played by Frances Sternhagen, gets to save the day (or at least one scene) with a lighter and a can of bug spray. The meek, bespectacled assistant manager at the Food Shop (Toby Jones, in a far cry from his role as the dissolute Duke of Clarence in Amazing Grace) turns out to be a crack shot. So it isn’t all bad news there.
Still, it wasn’t actually a good movie, either. The tension is good — the scariest moments aren’t the times when you jump, it’s the quieter times, when the mist is all you see and you can only hear the strange, distant sounds of the monsters. But overall, you have to ignore way too many plot holes. We don’t know, for instance, why the tentacled beasts are apparently too polite at first to do anything but knock at the door, basically, but of course that’s only because it’s more dramatic that way. The actors do a good job of pulling you in to the story, but everyone is either Good or Evil, basically, and people just aren’t like that.
So two and a half idols, because it wasn’t terrible, either. The ending, though… again, I don’t know how true it is to the book, but it’s bad, in a couple of senses of the word. Imagine the most horrible, gut-wrenching ending you can think of, short of the entire human race being killed. Now make it just a touch worse, and there you have it. It’s bad in another way, though, in that you see it coming a mile away and it ends up losing its impact because of that. But fans can look for a lot of cutsey little references to King’s other work — personally, I thought it was all a bit much, even though I probably missed a lot of them, but it’s good material for an impromptu trivia game with friends, I guess. Sadly, you might want the distraction.