"The Mist" is a fine horror film with subtle layering that improves the picture with each repeat viewing.
The Mist (2007, Blu-ray)
Directors: Frank Darabont
Producers: Frank Darabont
Writers: Frank Darabont (script), Stephen King (story)
Features: * Commentary * Documentary * Trailer * Black and White Version * Deleted Scenes * Featurettes
Thomas Jane ... David Drayton
Marcia Gay Harden ... Mrs. Carmody
Laurie Holden ... Amanda Dumfries
Andre Braugher ... Brent Norton
Toby Jones ... Ollie Weeks
William Sadler ... Jim
Jeffrey DeMunn ... Dan Miller
Frances Sternhagen ... Irene Reppler
Nathan Gamble ... Billy Drayton
Alexa Davalos ... Sally
Chris Owen ... Norm
Sam Witwer ... Private Jessup
The Mist Blu-ray Review
Stephen King may be the master of suspense on paper, but when his novels are turned into films, the results are wobbly at best. Occasionally, thereís a good adaptation (the highly altered, but successful "1408" comes to mind), but often the filmís struggle to grasp the writerís signature sense of style, pacing, character depth and tone.
There are really only two filmmakers that consistently do King any justice. The first is Rob Reiner, whoís taut, visceral "Stand by Me" still stands as one of Kingís best non-horror works and one of the finest adaptations. Reinerís tense, unnerving adaptation of Kingís "Misery" is equally great in a vastly different way.
The second filmmaker to properly adapt Kingís work is Frank Darabont. Like Reiner, Darabont fancies Kingís less-supernatural/horrifying writing, opting to adapt his softer historical dramas like "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile." Kingís short story, "The Mist," would prove to be Darabontís first major foray into Kingís tenser, more horrifying work, and just as before, the results are equaling compelling, if not more so.
Originally intended to be Darabontís first feature length film, "The Mist," actually serves as his sixth theatrical outing and his fourth King adaptation. Without skipping a beat, Darabont immediately immerses the viewer in a very real world. Our hero, an artist named David Drayton (Tom Jane), takes his son and neighbor to a local grocery store after a terrible storm. Once in the store, an ominous mist, awakened by the storm, covers the entire city. A local townsperson rushes out of the mist, into the store and warns of great horrors hiding within the mist. The storeís many patrons, fearing the truth of his words, become locked inside with only their rationality keeping them sane while hordes of vicious beasts attempt to break their way inside.
What follows is a genuinely tense tale, and a surprisingly accurate adaptation, thatís less about the monsters hiding in the mist, and more about the horrors that lie within man. Darabont paints socially relevant shades of gray that subtly jab at the ongoing fear-mongering from political parties and news media, while showing us just how easily fear can sway someone from rationality to irrationality. At its core, the film shows us our demons and forces us to face them.
Of course, beyond the social and political ramifications of the film, there are the filmís various monsters and gut-wrenching shocks. The budget was low and thusly, the CG isnít particularly great, but the visuals presented are satisfying regardless, easily topping the visual wonder of the monsterís in the larger budgeted, "Cloverfield." A scene involving spiders is the filmís most terrifying and violent.
On anther level still, the story is about Godís control over man, and manís control over God. A large subplot involves a mob-like mentality of religious zealots, fearfully formed through the mad words of an evangelical, Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden). Mrs. Carmody makes broad sweeping claims about Godís intentions and soon evolves into a God of her own, turning innocent, scared people into God-fearing monsters, removing their hope that God will ultimately bring them salvation.
Darabont, and King, slowly build Mrs. Carmody up, initially painting her as a loony, old bat, but ever so slowly her dark, intensely broad prophecies seemingly come true, banding her with the other store patrons until she rules supreme among them, controlling their thoughts and their deadly actions. Even those who deny her devilishly righteous claims, sloughing her off as insane, still mange to lose all hope in God and humanity by filmís end. Itís a powerfully poignant look at both faith and a mob mentality and how the two playfully intertwine with fiendish, painful and disastrous results.
The film does suffer from a few technical flaws on Darabontís part, and the matter-of-fact dialogue will prove tiresome and cheap for some fans hoping to witness, once more, the poetic prose of King "1408." But this is a radically different kind of horror film. Itís a tale about real monsters and real people and rightfully, it sports very real dialogue. Unfortunately, the only undeniable flaw is the pacing of the filmís shocking and abrupt finale (the only new nugget tacked on by Darabont himself). Darabont wastes no time getting to his "big twist" and sacrifices the sadness and horror of his characters for a cheap "gothca" gag that is likely to incite some laughter from younger, less mature audiences.
Flaws aside, "The Mist" is a fine horror film with subtle layering that improves the picture with each repeat viewing. This is a film thatís horrifying on so many different levels. Itíll likely stay with you long after the credits have rolled. If only all of Kingís adaptations could be this thoughtful and this good.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: B+
Film Value: A-
Dimension delivers "The Mist" in two versions on Blu-ray, both in 2.35:1 widescreen, encoded in 1080p/AVC video. Disc one is housed on a BD50 Dual Layer disc. Disc two is housed on a BD25 disc. The first disc features the theatrical color version. This is a low budget film with an intentionally low budget look. Colors are a bit flat and grain is present throughout. The print is sharp though, with excellent depth and clarity as well as surprisingly deep, inky blacks. This was never a particularly pretty looking film and this transfer only marginally looks better than the DVD.
The black and white version, found on disc two, actually fairs better. Thus far, Iíve found that black and white truly looks best in high-def. Compare the color sequences to the black and white sequences on the "Heroes" boxsets and youíll see notable differences in quality. Here, itís just the same. Frankly, Iím torn about which version I prefer. While clarity and depth is even better with the black and white version, and the flat looking palette of the transfer is gone, I canít shake the goofball feel the film takes on in black and white. It plays more like a 50s B-movie, which just isnít as relevant for me. The ending also doesnít work with the black and white version. Itís certainly nice that both versions are presented here, so that fans can choose for themselves.
Dimension brings "The Mist" to Blu-ray with a well designed, subtle Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. The DVD featured a great 5.1 mix, but this one tops it. A few years back, "The Mist" was adapted as a radio play and was well known for its enveloping 3-D effects. The film sports an obvious homage to this great radio plays with its truly engaging, aggressive mix that proves to be subtly terrifying with itís cleverly placed ambient effects. Dialogue is clean and crisp and surround effects are perfectly designed, giving the listener a truly 3-D environment to play around in. My only minor gripe is that Mark Ishamís score seems a touch louder and a bit more intrusive that it should be, particularly at the filmís finale. Still, this is a surprisingly enveloping mix.
Dimension thankfully ports over all of the features found on the two-disc DVD set, including both color and black and white versions of the film. Goodies include:
ē Commentary -- This is a solo track featuring a very passionate Darabont discussing the motivations, style and structure of his film. I love hearing this guy talk about his films, and others. He manages to make the most boring and minute details sound compelling and wholly fascinating. A must listen for fans of Darabontís stunning career.
ē Documentary: ĎWhen Darkness Came: The Making of The Mistí -- Running roughly 40-minutes, this documentary details the complex challenges of bringing such a small scale, but entirely epic tale to the big screen with such a small, scaled back budget. The cast and crew are interviewed, cleverly intertwined with fascinating behind the scenes footage. I wish all disc documentaries could be a good as this.
ē Featurettes -- Four total, running about 40-minutes, that outline the visual effects, both practical and CG, that make up the monsters in the film. Also, thereís an ĎAnatomy of a Sceneí-type featurette and a fascinating featurette about real-life artist Drew Struzan, who serves as the loose basis for the filmís main character, David Drayton. Struzanís art is also featured on the Blu-ray box.
ē Deleted Material -- Mostly just scene extensions and additional material. I liked almost every single added bit. Itís a shame one of the cuts didnít feature these scenes incorporated back into the cut.
A major issue I had with the original DVD was the deletion of Drew Struzanís artwork on the box. It was bittersweet given how involved he was in the film. I can only guess that with this disc, it was Darabontís call to restore Struzanís original artwork. Frank Darabont is allegedly a big proponent of Blu-ray and he allegedly oversaw the creation of the disc. Sadly, Struzanís artwork for this film is probably his worst. Making matters worse, the back of the box features no stills from the film and barely even mentions all of the filmís bonus material. The packaging design ultimately feels a bit rushed.
"The Mist" is not a shock-horror picture nor is it necessarily designed for todayís teen crowd. Instead, "The Mist" is a film thatís designed for those looking for much deeper-cutting, mind-bending terror and for those who love dissecting layered social commentaries. And what better way to enjoy the film, than this stunning Blu-ray presentation.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: N/A
Recommendation: Worth owing.
On Blu-ray disc: September 16, 2008.
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----R. L. Shaffer