Mist, The (US - BD)
Marcus Doidge steps out into The Mist with a rope tied around his waist...
After a destructive thunderstorm, artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) heads into town for supplies with his son, Billy (Nathan Gamble), and narky neighbour Brent Norton (Andre Braugher).
Making a stop at the busy local grocery store, David and the rest of the shoppers are shocked by the appearance of Dan Miller (Jeffrey DeMunn) running into the store with a bloody nose warning of something dangerous in the mist. This is soon followed by a wall of mist rolling over the parking lot and enveloping the store.
With visibility reduced to near-zero outside the store’s all-glass front and differing reactions to just how dangerous mist can be, the characters in the store soon begin to clash, made all the worse when David witnesses the death of bag-boy Norm (Chris Owen, the Sherminator) at the hands (or is that tentacles) of what really resides within the mist and tries to convince the rest of the store that venturing outside is probably the worst idea they could ever have.
The Mist is another Frank Darabont masterpiece as far as I’m concerned. I know that’s a hell of a way to begin this review, but it’s one of those movies that deserves that sort of out in the open reaction. It immediately grabs your attention and for me, has got better on repeat viewings. Darabont has an uncanny knack at making movies that feel nothing like anything else in the current climate. The Shawshank Redemption is one of those movies that will be forever referred to as a genuine classic (no mean feat) and to a lesser degree I’d imagine that The Green Mile will be regarded in much the same reverence in many circles. The Majestic didn’t get the praise it deserved and was woefully under-loved, but I for one adore its sense of nostalgia and heart and whilst I can see why it wasn’t well received, it’s still a master filmmaker at work. So, as you can see I’m a Darabont fan (and that’s without going into his other credits).
I’ll talk about the alternative version of The Mist included on this release later in the review, but the first version and the version that hit the big screens is the colour version and this is a genre piece at its finest. Sharing much in common with the paranoia movies of the 1970s as well as taking huge chunks from the B-movie era, The Mist has that old school thriller feel with a nice teaspoon of genuine horror for good measure. Darabont plays his characters off of one another with grace and never takes any character into the realms of un-believability, despite some of the sheer sci-fi craziness going on around them. He delivers each of the many characters’ attitudes with equal conviction and despite there being a developing group that you naturally side with, you really have the opportunity to understand and believe the choices of those around them (even the mental ones).
At the front of all this and taking the Jack Shephard from Lost role in leading a small group through a bizarre situation, is Tom Jane. Despite having very little in the way of truly great film roles behind him, I have to say that I really enjoy all of Jane’s work (except the Mutant Chronicles, but we can ignore that one for now). He’s just a great leading man, especially in this everyman role. It only takes about two lines of dialogue before you are completely on his side and because of this, the character really is the key that takes you into this bizarre turn of events—and what a bizarre set of events these are.
I don’t really see the point in hiding the ‘what’s in the mist’ question because the trailers and build up to the movie’s release did very little to keep that a secret. There are bugs, and beasties and flying nasties and… maybe I’ll leave a few things a secret. Let’s just say none of them are very nice and they are very well realised in a modern B-movie sort of a way. They are both realistic and at the same time, not. Though not in a CGI respect, which for the most part is great. It’s more that they feel very real without losing that B-movie magic of being a movie design. They’re not quite the scientific elegance that the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park were, they are more The Creature from the Black Lagoon—a proper movie monster and it’s a joy.
The Mist manages to suck you into both the fear of what’s outside and the brewing turmoil of what’s happening inside. Darabont manages to get across just how heated the tension is getting by having characters switch sides between trying to survive and looking for someone else to give them the answers. Tom Jane’s, David is our hero trying to survive and the lady dishing out her religious answers to this situation is Marcia Gay Harden’s Mrs. Carmody, who is quite frankly one of the best ‘love to hate’ villains that I’ve seen in quite some time This character will make your blood boil (unless of course you agree with her point of view). She is every bit as scary as the beasties in the mist. As her character’s influence grows the more you feel uneasy being around her and feel the best option is probably to deal with whatever’s outside, over risking staying in the store any longer. It’s effective, well played out stuff and has many a memorable moment to make this about the characters rather than just the monsters, which most modern horrors tend to forget.
The look and feel of what Frank Darabont has managed to produce on a very limited production is astonishing. The Mist is a movie that does everything right in whatever area it tackles, from character to horror, through gore into tension and spectacle and the ending is well… sublime in its bravery. I won’t even go near spoiling this for anyone, even though I feel it would be equally as effective if you did know before you saw it for the first time. What I will say is that this is one movie that more than deserves the hype surrounding its closing scenes and more movies should have the sheer amount of balls on display here.
I’ll say up front that when The Mist wants to be grainy, it really is grainy but the key word in that sentence is wants. Darabont is quite outspoken about his style of filmmaking and this movie is very much a seventies affair, so quite obviously a stylistic choice rather than an issue.
The transfer here is a great one. The colours feel enhanced against the coolness of the mist and everything has a nice level of detail, especially the background and set dressing of the grocery store. Blacks are very dark and effective and for the most part the CGI effects don’t stick out too much from the film around them, though it can be said they are a little jarring on first sight as an obvious digital effect.
The Mist does what Horror does best. It makes you feel uncomfortable in silence then frightens the hell out of you when it needs to. In its quiet moments, The Mist has clear dialogue and has a great use of natural sound effects. In its loud moments it punches home the fear elements. The loud screeches of the mist critters sweep around the surround nicely, the subtle music tracks fill the room and the entire sound mix uses surrounds with great effect. I didn’t feel that the bass was used that much, outside of thuds on the grocery front but saying that, I would probably go with the argument that The Mist has wisely gone for a more subtle approach rather than the over-use of BOOM BOOM BOOM, that a lot of modern horror knows will incite an immediate reaction.
Considering this did close to nothing cinematically, this could have been a barebones release. Thankfully it comes stacked with more goodness than a bowl of shreddies.
On disc one, there’s a commentary with Frank Darabont that is a joy to listen to. It’s packed full of extensions to the stories you hear in the rest of the features and it really sounded like the man genuinely enjoyed the experiences he had making this film.
The main making of is ‘When Darkness Came’ (37.27). Darabont’s enthusiasm is infectious and you really pick up on this in all these features. The limitations in the production and the rules laid out by the studio in order to let him make the film are almost seen as a challenge to him and it’s impressive that he never seems to lose his head and manages to bring new ideas to the table mid-shoot. There are honest accounts on casting which I always find interesting, especially when it feels this genuine and pretty much everyone gets their say. It’s a great making of.
Then there’s ‘A Conversation with Stephen King and Frank Darabont’ (12:17) which is brilliant. It may very well be a series of patting each other on the back but it’s done with genuine affection and respect and to see these two geniuses shooting the shit about how they met and how well they work together is just a blast.
Moving onto the short featurettes, we get ‘Taming the Beast’(12:10) which is the challenges of making of Scene 35. This is the scene where all hell breaks loose and the beasties make their way into the grocery store. This featurette shows just how quickly decisions had to be made to make the scene work and how much can change on set. This is real insightful stuff.
‘Monsters Among Us’ (12:44) is a look at the creatures model work and complimenting that is ‘The Horror of it all’ (16:02) which looks at the visual FX. Both of these featurettes highlight just how much work went into getting the style right and how much both areas collaborated to get the look Darabont was after, without compromising the hand-held style camera-work.
Then, as a total surprise to me (I guess I missed it on the press releases) is ‘Drew Struzan: an Appreciation of an Artist’ (7:31) which is probably the extra feature that put the biggest smile on my face all year. To have a nice focused look at Struzan’s work and a short but sweet discussion about how much of a giant he is when it comes to movie posters, is the stuff extra features were made for. This is a fantastic inclusion and almost worth the price of the purchase alone.
As side orders on disc one, there are four webisodes (10:13) eight deleted scenes (14:47) and three trailers (7:16).
Onto the great disc two. Included here and deemed the best way of seeing the movie, as per the Introduction by Mr Darabont (3:16) is The Mist in black and white. Now, I was always going to get this movie anyway, but when it was announced early on that this version would be included, it made the wait feel even longer. The black and white version is everything I’d hoped for and more. Rather than just making it feel like an old school B-movie, which was ace, it manages to makes The Mist feel timeless. The mood really is completely different and somehow if feels like there’s more focus on the performances even though there are no changes beyond the lack of colour. The monsters work so much better in this black and white world and the use of dark and light just make the movie look absolutely amazing. As you can probably tell from my gushing, I liked this version a lot and could bang on about its genius for much longer but I’ll leave it by saying that the fact that what seems such a minor difference could make this almost feel as this is two different movies is something to behold.
The Mist was one of the first movies I withheld a DVD purchase for, awaiting an inevitable Blu-ray release and thankfully the decision paid off because not only is this a region free release but it comes with all of the trimmings from the two disc DVD edition—phew!
I don’t know if everyone will respond to the movie quite as positively as I have, mainly due to the lacklustre reception it had on cinematic release and the general feeling that people may not necessarily want to see this style of horror movie. I for one feel that this is yet another beautifully crafted Frank Darabont movie that more than deserves to have another Shawshank-esq growth on home release.
Anyone that does buy it, needs to make a black and white viewing an absolute necessity because however great this movie is in colour, and it really is great, the black and white version takes it even further and secures its place as one of the best movies of the year.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release. Thanks to Jacob for taking some damn fine screen caps.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 16th September 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Englsih, Dolby Digital 5.1 French
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Commentary, Making of, Featurettes, Conversation with Frank Darabont and Stephen King, Trailers, Webisodes, Deleted/Extedned Scenes, The Mist: Black and White Version with Introduction
Easter Egg: No
Director: Frank Darabont
Cast: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi and Thriller
Length: 125 minutes
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