After a violent storm, a dense cloud of mist envelops a small Maine town, trapping artist David Drayton and his five-year-old son in a local grocery store with other people. They soon discover that the mist conceals deadly horrors that threaten their lives, and worse, their sanity.
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Kyle Smith review of “The Mist”
126 minutes/Rated R (profanity, graphic violence)
I’m scared of a lot of things. Cancer, al Qaeda, chemical-plant eruptions, careening wrong-way delivery boys on cast-iron Chinese bicycles, teenagers. Land octopi aren’t in my top 1000.
“The Mist,” a pretentious left-wing monster movie with about 15 minutes of alarming creatures and a whole lot of bickering, is a pre-9/11 story Stephen King wrote eons ago that operates in the post-9/11 era about as well as a Studebaker at the Daytona 500.
Thomas Jane heads an A-Z of C-listers who are in a Maine grocery store when the eponymous clammy front sweeps in. A codger dashes bleeding from the vapor hollering, “Something in the mist took John Lee!” Love that clapboard-churches-and-long winters name.
Though director Frank Darabont is falling farther and farther short of the standard he set in the classic “The Shawshank Redemption,” the first act cooks up some of the gray dread of Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds.” At the outset Darabont uses no musical score and effectively deploys the quasi-documentary style (handheld cameras, zoom lenses, iffy focus) that now features in practically every movie and TV show except “High School Musical.”
It’s when the monsters appear that you stop holding your breath to let out the laughter. C’mon, giant blubbery tentacles as sticky as the floor of a peep show? Locusts the size of Dakota Fanning? A pterodactyl in Aisle Four? This is Saturday afternoon on Channel 11, not material for directors of Oscar-nominated films.
King’s well-established loathing for Christian evangelists (if you ever have cause to suspect you’re in a Stephen King story and you’re locked in a room with a Bible-loving biddy and, say, a zombie hellhound, it’s the former you should fear) is dully personified by Marcia Gay Harden. As the monsters begin to reach into the store like it’s a bowl of Doritos and commence snacktime with her fellow villagers, she starts babbling about God’s vengeance, abortion, stem-cell research and even human sacrifice. This is the sixth time I’ve endured Harden in the past year–who says I’ve got the best job in the world?–so I think I speak with authority when I say her charisma make Dennis Kucinich look like John F. Kennedy. Yet, with cheery remarks like “Don’t go out there. It’s death out there. It’s the end of days!” she inspires a pro-monster cult to rise around her. A civil war threatens to break out somewhere between the charcoal briquettes and the Ovaltine.
King’s man-turns-against-man routine is not only dramatically inert–we aren’t really in the mood to listen to bickering when there are mutant species afoot–but conceptually phony. After 9/11, were people kinder than usual, or did we load up on pitchforks and prophecies and burn one another’s barns?
Since issues of race and class are raised only to be dropped, the characters are as thin as the one-ply toilet tissue in the store-brand aisle. What is supposed to be a quietly moving scene between a soldier and a checkout girl instead reminded me of the gag in “Airplane!” about the sweet virgin who decides to booty-call every guy on the plane because it’s about to crash.
Plotwise, things aren’t much more intelligent. The monsters are outside. The townsfolk are in the best possible place, stocked with weeks worth of food and bev. So naturally they keep opening the doors and venturing mistward. A lawyer (Andre Braugher) seems to make the case that he’s been in the courtroom so many times that he’s tired of logical reasoning, so why not deny all evidence of danger and stroll forth into the toothy hell outside?
By the time the movie’s final moments were completely undercutting its supposed message, I was fondly recalling Paul Verhoeven’s ridiculous, fascist space-insects epic “Starship Troopers.” “The Godfather” it is not. But at least it doesn’t hide its exploding thoraxes and laser cannons behind the skirts of a church lady.]]>
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