...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Death without Hope

The Mist (2007)


I'm sure that's reaction of most when The Mist fades to black. Either "Wow, that sucked," or "Wow, that was AWESOME!"

I'm in the latter group. And, WOW, has Frank Darabont gone to the darkside regarding themes of hope. In Shawshank, it was "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." But in The Mist a whole lot of good people die. And one of the most powerful themes revolves around the horror of hopelessness. Perhaps if some of the characters had been full of hope, things would have ended differently, but the events that prestaged the ending allowed no room for optimism.

A strange mist blows down from the mountains, over the lake, then blankets a small New England town. Many of the locals hole up in the neighborhood grocery store when it becomes apparent that there's something murderous in the mist.

The film posits: who's scarier, the monsters or us? We win the nomination by some measure. Not that the creatures from the mist aren't unnerving. The tiny spiders that blanket a body are effectively creepy. The giant flies are amusing, especially the sound of their feet sticking to the plate glass windows. And there's a humbling shot near the end of some Thing that is a little intimidating.

One's opinion of the film is likely influenced not only by the increasingly downbeat 3rd Act, but also the performance of Marcia Gay Harden as the Christian zealot. The fire-and-brimstone side of human personality is played hot, high, and crazy. This may turn off some. But truly the killer intentions don't end with the fundamentalist types. The film illustrates where it lies within us all.

This is a B-movie first and foremost. The budget was about 1/6th of the average H-wood action movie; the utilization of the grocery store illustrates how tension can be built through staging on one main set.

And as a final note, unlike THX 1138, this is not a single-key film. There's unrequited lust between several sets of characters, occasional bursts of humor, and moments of internal conflict. Like THX, characters may be suffocated by their universe, but in The Mist it's often by their own hand.