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|11.08.07||Alamo South Lamar|| I will try to stay spoiler-free for half of this note. I'll tell you when to stop reading.|
In the interest of being fully honest, I had heard that this sucked. Which is a shame. I read the story a long time ago and really loved it and still remember parts of it (like the ending) very well. Plus the fact that the venue was changed (apparently because the Ritz elevator is having troubles) and Darabont didn't want any food during the movie even though we had already paid for a 3-course meal... It had me very much in a mood to want to like it but be disappointed.
So Much to my surprise, I liked the majority of the movie! I think most of it works really well and there are a few ballsy moves there and the whole thing has a quality of coverage and cutting that you don't normally see in horror movies nowadays (i.e. epileptics can actually watch the movie if they want to). So even though I'm gonna list specific problems I had with it further down, I want everyone to consider this a positive review.
I think the creature design was for the most part fantastic (and really the only parts I didn't like about it were dictated by the story itself) and one moment near the end created what is for me my first truly satisfying Lovecraftian moment on film.
I also enjoyed Thomas Jane for the most part. Actually all the actors did a great job. Blah blah blah. It was all well-done on a craft level. I liked the semi-documentary low-budget approach too (although I think that was more to do with behind the scenes and shooting method than actual visual style. The only difference that comes across as you watch it is there's more zooming than usual). In the end I'd say I liked about 75% of the movie a whole lot.
Spoilers start now because I can't gripe about it without mentioning certain specifics. If you don't want the ending spoiled don't read the rest of this!
-I think it's a story suited to a pretty low budget (pretty much one location, the mist hides a lot, etc.) and I'm glad Darabont could focus so much on his cast and everything but... I still feel he needed more money for the CGI. Like I mentioned before, I didn't have a problem with the designs so much; the CG just looked extra shiny to me. Especially shooting handheld and stuff, I could've used the CG being 100% photorealistic and as believable as possible (for, you know, being unimaginable monsters). It bothered me throughout, especially because there was all of 1 practical creature effect and it worked just fine. Now, the ending makes this less of an issue for me but more on that later.
-So the first real tense scene involves tentacles. Afterward, the guys that were in the loading dock and saw the things have this HUGE long scene where they try to convince everyone else that they're telling the truth. I sort of get why that scene needs to take place (since so much of the movie is about how human nature and how we deal with intense fear and panic and denial is certainly one of those ways but... there's a piece of tentacle right back there in the loading dock! The entire argument is a waste of time and I guarantee every person in that audience wanted to scream out JUST SHOW IT TO THEM! and be done with this stupid scene.
Also, in the story I remember the main dude sleeping with the school teacher while everyone else sleeps. It continues with the exploration of how everyone deals with such an intense situation but i don't really miss it in the movie.
-It's one thing for me to read crazy religious babble and sermonizing and it's another thing to actually sit through it on-screen. I don't mind reading it, watching it is tedious for me. I knew this coming in since it's most definitely in the story and Marcia Gay Harden did a good job with it but... it's still hard to sit through. I suppose it's a success because it makes those few moments where she's actually shut up all the more sweeter, but ugh.
-I can't remember if this was in the story or not but there's a scene in the movie where one of the army guys explains a little about what Project Arrowhead actually is. Doors to different dimensions, windows to other worlds, blah blah blah. I don't know why there's always a need to explain where something comes from or why it's happening. A bit part of the draw for the story for me (and again, if I'm just not remembering this than it's my bad) was that it just happened. Sure you could guess that it had something to do with Arrowhead but we don't need anything more than that. There are monsters in the mist; that's it.
-The creature design is great but... all these alien beings from another dimension and what do we see? bugs and spiders? really? Granted you dont see many spiders with evil looking skull faces or whatever but... bugs and spiders? So, this is from the story so this gripe is really not the movie's fault but still.
-The movie has almost no music and most of the cues are just kind of generic pulsing action-backdrop stuff to keep you pumped up. That's fine. But at the end when they finally get to the car and this Dead Can Dance music starts playing over all these long slow-motion shots of a car driving in the mist. UGH.
-The ending. OK. So the story ends (as far as I remember) they get in the car, drive off, they try the radio, they hear two words: "Hartford" and "Hope." It's kind of a non-ending to be sure but it ends the way it starts and it stuck with me because it was what it was. There are monsters in The Mist. That's it. In the movie, first they go check on the wife, then they drive (to more Dead Can Dance) and drive until they run out of gas. --
First, I have to mention this. The final monster they see (the huge one that shakes the car with every footstep) is the closest and most successfully cinematic realisation of a Lovecraftian monster that I've ever seen. You can't really see much in the mist but it's absolutely huge and weird and tentacled and everything it needs to be. Fantastic job on that.
-- So anyway, they run out of gas, only 4 bullets for 5 people so Tom Jane shoots everyone (including his kid) then gets out and waits to be killed but... the mist clears and there are military guys with flamethrowers burning the monsters and people are getting to safety (including the woman from the beginning who's the first to walk out in it). Aside from the windows not shattering from the gunshots in the car and his ears not bleeding from the immense sound bothering me on a mundane level, I was struck by this ending not because I didn't like it but because it changed the whole movie for me. Let me try to explain.
It's a twist. But not a twist like a twist ending like aHA! the father did it! type twist ending but more a twist of the knife. The way I see it, both the story and the majority of this movie is like someone repeatedly stabbing you. It's a simple horror story that's effective and it just is what it is. Stab Stab Stab, straight forward, relentless, horrific. The ending makes it more like an EC comics story or a Tales from the Crypt episode. It's stab stab twist the blade in your guts. Did they REALLY have to just wait two more minutes and they all would've been saved? REALLY? Well in this cruel world, yes. and the girl from the beginning that by all means should have died survived and probably everyone they left at the market survived too because the world is out to get you and you're screwed. That makes it more comic booky to me (which forgives the cartoony CG). Again, not a bad ending by any means, it just changes things for me.
I like stab stab stab movies. I like monsters in the mist. I like them driving into grey and credits coming up. I guess that's just me. I like him killing his kid for nothing too, but in a much different way, a way I didn't really see with this story.