Sunday, October 30, 2011

Movie Appraisal: The Mist (2007)

Well, here's another Stephen King horror movie, this time brought to us by Frank Darabont, who had previously directed such great Stephen King prison films like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. This is not a prison film. This is not set in the past. This is a film that is completely against Frank Darabont's strengths... and it shows.

Now, that doesn't mean that I hate this film. I actually like it a decent amount. It's an interesting film with quite a few decent set-pieces to it. I also love the source material of "The Mist", the novella that Stephen King wrote, and this movie is a fairly good adaptation of that novella, although it does make the entire story feel more like a social experiment... and... well, the ending isn't painful to watch in the novella.

Altogether, this is Lovecraftian horror at its finest. With nameless abominations and an all-consuming mist, permeating the world that is in the movie, it is a story about despair and unreasonable things. The social interactions show a lot about human nature, from religion to bravery to cowardice. Survival in the main instinct shown and everybody in the film is vying for it for themselves. There are sacrifices and unbelievers, but the main goal is always survival, maybe not for a single person, maybe for the human race... or maybe just for one. It may depend on the selfishness of the character.

The Mist is not the best film in the world. In fact, it's fairly rough in general. The acting is never really there. It never gets to a level that one can brag about. It's always close to the mark, but never really hits it. The CGI, at times, can be brilliant, and at other times, especially in the store room of the grocery store early in the film, it can be painful to watch. It has such a rough cut to it, and looks so obviously fake, and well... it's hard to justify that. The practical effects look much better on the whole, but the pterodactyl monsters and the  big daddy at the end of the film are done really well with CGI, and happen to be some of my favorite parts of the film.

It is an atmospheric film for the most part, but undermines itself constantly with needless dialogue, insipid and sometimes stereotypical characters, and with a plot that is barely existent. In some ways this is the first movie in the vein of a survival horror video game that wasn't based on a survival horror video game. Instead the original story gave rise to many of them, being the partial inspiration to video games like Silent Hill and Half-Life, both fantastic games that capture the feeling of the story itself with having some of the worst parts of this movie.

Is this movie good? Not really... but I can't call it horrible either. While it's never scary and the ending is horrible and should be avoided at all costs, the movie itself is fairly solid, having decent acting performances by many relatively unknown actors, and a decent plot to fall back upon. The creatures, the mist itself, and the social ramifications of the two really make this movie, but they made the story itself better. Imagination is often much more horrifying than CGI, and the point is proven in this movie.

I wouldn't recommend it, but I wouldn't say avoid it at all costs either. It's a decent way to waste time if you have time to waste, but I wouldn't go out of my way to ever watch it again. Fun, but forgettable.

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