Director Frank Darabont has made two of the most revered Stephen King adaptations in The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. But for his third King film, Darabont has gone in a very, very dark direction with The Mist.
The set-up is one of those pulpy Stephen King ideas. Thanks to a bungle at a military research base, a supernatural mist has been released and it has quickly engulfed a small New England town. Inside the clouds, are all sort of nasties, ranging from prehistoric birds to oversize bugs - and they're hungry. Our heroes – and anti-heroes – are residents of the town who've been caught in the supermarket.
While this has some decent shocks and special effects moments, the best thing about The Mist is the idea that it's not what's outside that is the biggest threat. The real threat comes from inside the supermarket, with characters such as Marcia Gay Harden's religious nutjob who has everyone believing this is the end of days and they need to make blood sacrifice to God. These offerings are basically those people who don't agree with her.
It's not a subtle post-9/11 metaphor, but it's an effective one and this level of seriousness lets a strong cast exercise their dramatic chops. Toby Jones is especially good as an unlikely hero and Thomas Jane as an agreeable everyman.
Many horror movies fizzle out, but The Mist gets better as it goes along. And the ending is truly one of the most shocking in horror movie history.
As an unusually smart and grim fright film, The Mist rates three and a half stars.