Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Mist

Well, it's a week before Hallowe'en, so I can't ignore it any longer. The Horror genre is not my favorite, but like anything, if something good comes along, no matter its origins, no matter its budget, it should be celebrated. 

We won't be doing that. 

We'll be looking at a bunch of horror movies from the past few years that I haven't been able to recycle into this blog—for whatever reason—but mostly for the fact that they aren't any good. They are horror films that merely accentuate the fact that I don't like the genre much, even though it has always inspired new techniques in film-making, rules-breaking in scope and subject matter, and been the moldy place from which some talented film-makers emerged...while others just fell back into the bog.

  The Mist (Frank Darabont, 2008) A horror pastiche bubbled up from many long-crusted cauldrons, The Mist wouldn't cross anyone's radar as a "must-see." But considering it's writer-director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) revisiting Stephen King territory (usually Maine) with top-tier actors like Andre Braugher, Marcia Gay Harden, and Toby Jones, it's worth a look*

A night's damaging electrical storm produces a dawn mist that begins to seep down from the mountains. A trip into town for provisions traps a motley crew of citizens inside "The Food House" keeping the enveloping mist outside. Conspicuous consumption proceeds inside when a man bleeding from his head runs in screaming that "the mist" killed his companion, confirming that consumption is going on outside, as well. It becomes apparent that the lives of the people in the store amounts to a can of beans (
in Aisle 5), with roughly the same position on the food chain.

At that point, to pass the time everyone starts playing "The Blame Game" falling in line between the scientific, the religious and the superstitious. But, whatever "it" is, "it's a problem of some magnitude"—several magnitudes, in fact, what with giant killer locusts (for the religious), flesh-eating pterodactyls (for the scientific) and big hairy spiders shooting acid webs (for the superstitious). Not to mention the towering Lovecraftian dromedaries (for the English majors). They all have nasty invasive ways to kill you and the rest of the movie boils down to whatever bone-headed motivation it takes to get people outside for the near-occasions of carnage that break out every fifteen minutes. Go down the checklist—hubris, zealotry, rationalization, drunkenness, or even "doing it for the kids." Then there are the defense measures that feel more like offense for the other side; how smart is it to douse a flying creature with gasoline in an enclosed space...lit by torches?

Darabont shoots things in a faux cinema-verite style, light on the hand-held, and does some quick cutting (but not too quick) to hop up the urgency (and discourages thinking too much—the store doesn't have a radio? Not even for muzak?). And tries to justify it all with a minute discussion of how folks are rational "as long as the machines are working and they can call 9-1-1." (Points for working sociology and political science into one sentence").

The execution is tried and true, but then there are a lot of sources to draw from: 50's atomic monster movies, The Fog, The Thing, Night of the Living Dead, as well as waves to 28 Days, Planet of the Apes, The Birds, Alien, Stargate, and King's own Maximum Overdrive, which is about folks trapped in a diner while outside is a raging...18 wheeler. The ending has drawn a lot of criticism in some parts from some who though it was a "mist" opportunity, but it's a satisfying/dissatisfying ending that also has cinematic precedence, whether you like it or not.

The lesson, once the smoke clears, seems to be: "Don't be so myopic, ye of little faith."

Either that, or always take more bullets.

* Starring is Thomas Jane, late of "The Punisher" films, and he proves to be a credible, believable leading man of the Harrison Ford School.

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