The Mist (iTunes) is one of the rare moments where a Stephen King story translated to the screen actually surpasses the source material. The first time I saw the movie, I watched the studio release in 2007. I was rather impressed, but always felt as though something was a little off about the movie. I could never quite place it. Then, Justin over at Happy Underground Films (of Dead-Wait fame) suggested I watch Darabont’s original vision for the movie (in black & white) from the retail DVD release. So I did.
Oh. My. God. It’s absolutely fantastic.
You may recognize Frank Darabont as the writer/director of two other Stephen King films, The Shawshank Redemption (iTunes) and The Green Mile (iTunes), as well as hit series The Walking Dead. His handling of this story is nothing short of brilliant, as you’d expect.
Let’s start with the fact that the movie opens on the protagonist, David Drayton (played by Thomas Jane), painting the cover art for Stephen King’s Dark Tower Book VII. This is just one of those nice little touches that I always love from talented directors. In the black & white version, it is just the start of a stunning opening scene in which the Drayton family approaches the window to see a massive storm approaching. The stark contrast in the cinematography is just incredible. Darabont shot the movie on color film, but lit the entire set in such a way to allow him to post-process it in black & white, really making every shot pop. It’s all very reminiscent of horror movies of the ’50s and ’60s, but with a greatly improved acting and directing style that adds a staggering realism to the film.
But the real beauty in the film is in the way Darabont’s film parallels and makes reference to both McCarthyism and the post-911 terror era. One of the most poignant lines in the film feels like a direct reference to the way a number of Republican politicians began using fear and blame as a motivator after the towers fell:
“You scare people badly enough, you can get ’em to do anything. They’ll turn to whoever promises a solution.”
I don’t want to spoil this movie for you, because its finale is just gut-wrenchingly amazing. You simply must see it for yourself. Please do yourself a favor and buy or borrow the black & white release. You won’t be disappointed. Sit through the credits for another amazing subtlety as the score ends well before the credits do. The film has a lovely soundtrack, by the way, with very few moments actually scored, making those that are really stand out in your memory.