Movie Discussion: Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007)

  • Monthly Theme: Giant Monstersmist_xlg
  • The Film: The Mist
  • Country of origin: U.S.A.
  • Date of U.S. release: November 21, 2007
  • Studio: Dimension Films, et al.
  • Distributer: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
  • Domestic Gross: $25.5 million
  • Budget: $18 million (estimated)
  • Director: Frank Darabont
  • Producers: Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, et al.
  • Screenwriter: Frank Darabont
  • Adaptation? Yes, of the 1980 novella The Mist by Stephen King.
  • Cinematographer: Rohn Schmidt
  • Make-Up/FX: Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero, et al.
  • Music: Mark Isham
  • Part of a series? No.
  • Remakes? No.
  • Genre Icons in the cast? No.
  • Other notables?: Yes. Character actors Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher, and Thomas Jane (Deep Blue Sea).
  • Awards?: Best Supporting Actress [Harden] at the 2008 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.
  • Tagline: “Fear changes everything.”
  • The Lowdown: When a mysterious mist rolls into a small rural town, its brings strange and deadly creatures with it. Soon, a group of locals find themselves trapped in the local supermarket, fighting against the monsters… and each other…

If you haven’t seen The Mist our discussion will include massive SPOILERS.

Sean: So, The Mist. I disagree with what you said before. I do think the images of the soldiers at the end of The Mist are heroic, all battling and exterminating the monsters with all the citizens in transports, safe and sound. 28 Weeks Later is way more paranoid about the military. The Mist, in contrast, is celebratory about the military.

Kristine: I totally disagree. I thought the transport scene was creepy and concentration-camp-like. The citizens are at the mercy of the military in both movies.

Sean: That’s interesting…. But I don’t think there’s any hint in The Mist that the citizens are in danger from the military.

Kristine: The military causes the catastrophe in The Mist.

Sean: Yeah, that’s true I forgot about that. You’re right, but I still think they save the day in the end….

Kristine: Well, except they don’t tell the civilians what is going on earlier enough for them to save themselves. Which is why they suicide out. No, the military = bad in The Mist, but a more human, relatable bad then the vast, heartless machine that they are in 28 Weeks Later.

The clinical, organizing power of brute force

Sean: I’ll accept that. So The Mist is very divisive amongst horror fans – it tends to be a love it or hate it movie. But it seemed like you were lukewarm on it…. What did you think overall?

Kristine: Well, here is my arc with the movie: I started off not liking it that much. It seemed very TV-movie to me. Then I really got into it. But now, looking back on it, I think it is entertaining and effective but not really that good a movie.

Sean: Yeah, I think it’s very, very dumb, but likable.

Kristine: Exactly.

Sean: It’s like a cute but empty-headed boy. The cast is, across the board, Grade D.

Kristine: The stereotypes…the townies versus the educated liberals…the angry black man…the contrived nuclear family – all dumb.

When I am acting you FUCKING PAY ATTENTION!!!!

Sean: It was very stereotypical and extremely surfacey and not psychological at all, I thought. Even Marcia Gay Harden is very, very hammy and ridiculous in it, and I am usually on board for that, but I thought she was eyeroll central. Oh but I liked Andre Braugher actually.

Kristine: Absolutely hammy. Very fun to watch, though. But she is basically Carrie’s mom in Carrie, right?

Sean: Total Carrie’s mom, but even more insane. And weirdly perverse and kind of a misogynist fantasy.

Kristine: The dumb hicks were really too much, as well as the group think.

Sean: Yeah, I mean, I do think them killing the insane Michael Jackson post-op soldier was creepy and gross but it was kind of dumb too. And I thought all the main monsters were overdesigned and not scary.

Kristine: The idea of being under siege was scary, but the monsters weren’t at all. Well, the spiders kind of scared me. I also think they were mashing a lot of different genres into one movie, which makes it a crowd pleaser but not a very bracing or ambitious movie at all.

Sean: People who love the movie would say, but that ending. What an ambitious ending. I thought the ending was TTTH.

Kristine: TTTH?

Sean: (Totally trying too hard).

Kristine: Well, hold on on the ending for a sec…

Sean: The spiders scared you?

Kristine: I think the spiders scared me the most because I almost lost my right leg after a brown recluse bit me once… ER visits, huge, bullet-wound-shaped scar to the right of my knee… I couldn’t walk without a limp for months.

Sean: I agree that the little ones all bursting out of the body were scary, but the big ones were like angry turkeys. I also thought the gigantic Lovecraftian beasts in The Mist were the best and by far the coolest thing in the movie.

Kristine: The body exploding was scary. And the spiders shooting hot jizz was gross and scary.

Sean: You are afraid of penises, I think.

Freak: “Overdesigned turkeys;” Girl: “Jizz-matic and terrifying”

Kristine: So. This was also a post-Katrina movie, just like 28 Weeks Later.

Sean: Yeah, much more overtly I thought.

Kristine: Remember all the rapes and stuff in the Superdome?

Sean: Is Katrina a more important event to the American imagination than 9/11? For horror movies and stuff?

Kristine: To me, it is.

Sean: Why is that? I think I might agree because I find the subtext of Katrina to be scarier.

Kristine: Yes, because of how the government reacted and reacts still – ignoring and forgetting. There are no monuments to Katrina victims. No memorial day.

Sean: Yes, and also the notion that nature is amorphous and amoral and can suddenly rip the world in half. I find that terrifying. And then people react to it like crazy medieval maniacs.

Kristine: And the victims did not die because of the natural act, but  in the aftermath. Whereas almost all 9/11 victims died in that moment or shortly thereafter.

Sean: Yes to Superdome rape being horrifying…..

Kristine: I think Katrina is much much much more important and it affects me much more strongly.

Sean: Yes, and 9/11 is terrifying but easy to be like, well they’re just evil crazy people. Katrina is so much harder to rationalize away.

Kristine: Also, the scale is different.

Sean: It really calls into question everything. Like, you think you’re in civilizaton, but with one little nudge it will all disassemble.

Kristine: Yeah, exactly. What is the final body count for 9/11? I know there were over 25,000 people just in the superdome…

Sean: Whereas with 9/11, it is the story of a city rising to the challenge and coming together while the entire country cheers approvingly. Katrina is the story of a city unraveling while everyone sits back and watches, chuckling.

Kristine: Yeah, the story of Katrina is about the failure of that. Exactly. So, one thing I forgot about the Superdome thing was that an accused rapist was rumored to be beaten to death. Totally The Mist, right?

Katrina: Water swallows city

Sean: I wouldn’t have connected either of these movies to Katrina on my own. I am dumb. I think you’re right, the kids going back to their house in 28 Weeks Later is such a Katrina moment….

Movie: Mist swallows city

Kristine: No, you aren’t. 28 Weeks Later reminded me of it immediately. For The Mist I didn’t think about it, but then I read a Wikipedia recap today and the female lead referenced the Superdome and I was like, “Holy shit that’s right!” I am like the rest of America, I forget about Katrina…

Sean: Yeah, does that mean The Walking Dead is also sort of “about” Katrina? Atlanta/New Orleans….

Kristine: Oh, totally.

Sean: I am dying.

Kristine: You knew that one, c’mon.  The thing The Mist addresses that 28 Weeks Later does not is the Lord of the Flies breakdown of civility and humanity amongst the survivors when they’re trapped together somewhere. The movies stage that drama very differently.

Sean: Did you think the image of Thomas Jane’s wife bound up in the webbing at the end was haunting? Or dumb?

Kristine: Umm, I thought it was dumb. Webbing does not equal scary to me. But I thought his breakdown at the end was really good and true.

Sean: Agreed that his breakdown is good, despite my reservations about that ending. I don’t know, the movie just annoys me somehow. I also think the movie is really dumb about religion…

Kristine: It is a pretty obvious movie. I don’t see how you can say The Mist is pro-military, because they come too late. The Thomas Jane character tries to do the right thing and is selfless and heroic and it doesn’t matter. Whereas the military who have equipment and resources and knowledge and caused it all are all fine.

Sean: But you know that ending is wicked controversial, right?

Kristine: You told me it is not part of the novella.

Sean: Yes the novella’s ending is ambiguous and wonderfully creepy. The movie, I think, is very mean-spirited in the end.

Kristine: Yep. Real quick – I thought the genre mash thing was a mistake because it’s like…giant monsters…environmental terror…and then the whole Lord of the Flies groupthink sociological terror. Too much adds up to too little. Why do people love the movie?

Sean: They love the bleakness I think, and the “locked room mystery” element of the premise. I do love the tentacle scene.

Kristine: Yeah, that was cool.

Marcia Gay emerges from her trailer…

Sean: But the bugs and the spiders I classify as “dum dum.” Giant monsters = brilliant.

Kristine: I will sic a brown recluse on you and you will change your tune.

Sean: The dialogue = beyond retarded.

Kristine: Oh god. The worst.

Sean: Basically all the things bad about The Mist are bad about The Walking Dead and I’m glad Frank Darabont got fired from that show, and I hope it gets better with him gone.

Kristine: What about the stereotypes?

Sean: The stereotypes were horrible – I wanted Andre Braugher to be the main character. Not Tommy Jane.

Kristine: That’s right. The two hicks were really bad and offensive, too.

Sean: Those hicks. But that is such a Stephen King specialty: the inbred moronic hicks. The truth is, when directors who have a relationship with King adapt his stuff I think the results are bad to terrible (see Mick Garris) but when directors who just do their own thing adapt his stuff the results are fantastic to pretty darned good (see DePalma’s Carrie, Kubrick’s The Shining, Hooper’s ‘Salem’s Lot, Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone, Carpenter’s Christine, etc.). I think dummies are too reverential with his books and smarties are like, I’m doin’ it my way.

Kristine: I mean, don’t get me wrong. Rednecks are fucking scary. I should know.

Sean: Stephen King needs to just stop it already. And this movie has another seemingly modern woman who devolves into maternal overdrive and is all, Let me tend to this child because I have ovaries.

Kristine: Yeah, the sexism and stereotypes are gross and boring.

Ratings Round-Up

The Girl’s rating: Nice try, folks! AND This is a horror classic because…why, exactly?

The Freak’s rating: Nice try, folks!

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13 thoughts on “Movie Discussion: Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007)

  1. The Mist probably qualifies as a classic because of the obvious H.P. Lovecraft influence. All the necessary ingredients are there to make it a Lovecraft story: the stereotypical dumb hicks, the cultish adherence to strange religious beliefs, the otherworldly monsters with no real malice against the townspeople. Even the military’s “Arrowhead” project feels like something from a Lovecraft story–only it wouldn’t have been the military engaging in it, but some strange uncle back who left his house and journals to the narrator. I totally agree that it could have been a better movie, but there aren’t many movies that qualify as Lovecraftian horror, and of those, The Mist definitely shines as more than just a polished turd.
    BTW – love the new site!

      1. Yes! I love Dagon. Of course, it’s a bit different from Innsmouth, but does a great job of capturing Lovecraft’s horror. I know that Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness was supposed to be Lovecraftian, and I guess in a lot of ways it was, but it just seemed to try too hard. But that’s kind of Carpenter’s storytelling in a nutshell. Have you seen the modern silent film version of Call of Cthulhu? It’s actually quite good and very faithful to the source material.

  2. Great review. Just discovered your blog and have been up all night the past two nights reading it.
    I kinda disagree, though, with DePalma and Cronenberg seen as doing their own thing with King adaptations, because I felt those were rather faithful to the original work. In fact, even Carpenter’s and Hooper’s efforts seem to stick closely to the novel, and only Kubrick’s really stands out to me as being divergent.
    I do agree, though, that Garris’ adaptations are pretty awful, with this being the one exception.

    1. Hi Dana. You’re totally right that Kubrick is in his own category. Rereading what I said about those other adaptations, I think I was trying to suggest that most directors with their own style and aesthetic bring a certain je ne sais quois that directors like Garris in particular lacks. I agree that it’s a sliding scale for how much “originality” (and I think I meant stylistic originality more than changes to plot, theme and character in the novels) different directors bring. I think DePalma and Cronenberg, after Kubrick, bring their own stylistic intensity – De Palma’s Carrie is so pop and lurid and self-consciously cinematic; Cronenberg’s Dead Zone is also pretty Cronenbergian – icy, clinical, almost laconic. Those movies bear the “stamp” of the director as much or more than the “stamp” of King. Adaptations that FEEL Kingian usually fail (Garris everything, I’d say the Darabondt stuff though I know they’re beloved, the Dreamcatcher movie (great cast, wretched dialogue), and DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN THAT AWFUL UNDER THE DOME TV SHOW). Carpenter’s Christine feels like Carpenter to me – 1950s nostalgia, small-town milieu, obsessive masculinity under the microscope. And it’s literally been two decades since I’ve watched Hooper’s ‘Salem’s Lot, and of the names on that list he’s the most directorially blank. Anyway, just some more context for what I think I was driving at. Thanks for the feedback!