The world is filled with many constants. One of them is the continued existence of dozens upon dozens of adaptations of Stephen King novels and novellas. While some of these films have turned out to be pretty decent--Carrie, The Shining and The Shawshank Redemption, among others--many of them have been positively wretched. Thus, it's understandable that audiences may enter theatres to view The Mist with great trepidation. Thankfully, that preconception is unwarranted and The Mist is, shockingly, pretty good.
That's not to say that the film is flawless. Far from it, in fact. However, if one ignores Thomas Jane's absolute lack of acting ability, the campy special effects--which actually seem to add to the movie--and that the film, at 125 minutes, is far too long to hold up against other offerings in the horror/suspense genre, audiences will be left with a superb B-movie. Unlike other tepid adaptations, The Mist really does justice to one of Stephen King's most popular novellas. By far the best scene in the movie comes in the last portion of the film, with one of the most bleak and shocking endings in recent memory.
The Mist works best when viewed as a social commentary on the human condition and how religion has worked to divide us--placing us either in the corner of righteousness or as sinners. The man behind the successful Shawshank Redemption adaptation, Frank Darabont, adapted the story for the screen as well as directed it and seems to have been really interested in pursuing the belief that when humans are pushed into a corner they will return to a state of nature. In this state of nature, no semblance of morality and goodwill remains. Replaced only by a divided, carnal and mostly vengeful people who will search for the easiest solution to any problem, no matter how absurd or violent.
As is typical with the genre, it's probably best to go into The Mist without knowing too much, but those familiar with the book can be rest assured that it's pretty much what readers would expect from the novel.
The acting, however, is uneven. While Thomas Jane's performance is less than stellar, the best actor in the film is the superb Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs. Carmody. Harden plays the character as a more low-key religious nut, rather then the over-the-top approach less talented actors may have chosen.
In the end The Mist provides some chills and edge of your seat suspense, but it was much more than just a campy horror film. Darabont has weaved an unblinking tale of religious fanaticism and the human condition that comes to a halt with a truly believable but horrifying ending.
The Mist opens Fri., Nov. 23.