November 29th, 2007

there!, Hello

Movies Part I: The Mist

So, over the loooong weekend, when I probably should have been working on other things, I went to the movies.

What did I see?

Well, The Mist for starters. Wednesday evening, after a fine dinner with the normal Thursday night crew (plus one), Trista and I ventured out to a 10:00 show. Driving through the streets, we discovered a fine light fog settled over Worcester. Nice atmosphere before the film itself.

Now, I am a huge fan of Stephen King's original novella. There are stories that I can remember where I was when I was reading them (sort of the JFK, Princess Di situation, but without death), and while I was not one place for that rather long piece "The Mist," (I read it in the Skeleton Crew collection, not its first appearance in Kirby McCauly's seminal Dark Forces anthology), I can recall the place I was in terms of emotion and maturity. The year was the summer of 1988, I was thirteen and reading a book of scary stories from the guy who'd done Thinner (my first King, which I'd read while my grandmother was in the hospital, enduring her last stretch of battle with the big C; the big C would win that one) and It (my second King, bought as a paperback from my junior high school at a book fair, can you believe it?).
While there would be other stories in that collection that might hit my fear buttons a bit harder (off hand and at work, I'd have to say that "The Monkey" probably takes this title, that was the one story that made me sick to my stomach; not due to gore, which I'd developed an endurance for, but dread. I could not stomach reading that story, yet I had to finish it. Years later, when I was introducing my lovely wife to horror movies, she had a similar response to John Carpenter's flawed ode to Lovecraft In the Mouth of Madness, which I understood completely. But I digress...), "The Mist" remains one of my favorite "shorter" works from SK. Because it's got a cheesiness while playing things straight, because its ending is ambiguous, because the characters stuck in my head and made themselves at home (even now, I still recall some of these people with affection), because it had a delightfully scary atmosphere, because it evoked Lovecraft and dinosaurs gone wrong and... And because the writing was so lucid and wonderful. I still recall the unlucky bag boy being dragged out the steel door by tree trunk thick tentacles. I still recall the mad dash through the parking lot. I recall the "party streamers" in the pharmacy that turn out not to be celebratory, after all. I now recall (with thanks to shadowravyn the military men's jackets folded nicely as their fate dangles unavoidably near... There's plenty more. If you've enjoyed the story, perhaps you recall similar things. Perhaps not.

So, when I saw the trailer for Frank Darabont's adaptation (mentioned in my review of 30 Days of Night), I saw glimpes of images wrenched from the movie that had played in my head for the last twenty years -- a better movie than any film could reproduce, of course, since my Head Movie also features unobtrusive voice overs for thoughts and cetera -- I was geeked. Had to see this movie.

So, we drove through building fog to see it.

The film begins quickly enough, breezing through the build up of the story -- the opening section recounts, with more length I recall, a devastating storm -- and getting to the seige element. If you haven't read the story, seen any trailers, read other critics, or otherwise are somehow in the dark about this film's plot, my suggestion is to rectify this. I suck at synopsizing things, because I love minutia. What's that? Too lazy? All right, here goes:

After a storm ravages a Maine town, a man and his son go to the grocery store for some supplies. While there, a strange mist rolls into town. Something inside the mist is deadly, and everyone in the grocery store must hole up, trying to figure out how to survive. They soon faces monstrous threats from outside and among themselves. Already bad, situations only continue to get worse. Soon enough, a contingent of folks come to realize that there is no safety to be had in the confines of the grocery store, and they must escape it if they are to find any sort of security. They try, abandoning one fate for another. The end is not a happy one, which I was glad to see.

The film is pretty close to the source material until the last ten minutes or so, where it deviates. Or does it? As I find this sequence to be some of the more interesting thematically, I can't help but talk about it...


As a monster movie, not bad. Not bad at all. Of course, there are the little flubs that come about because of a film: eg. several kids inexplicably vanish as time goes on (who needs so many child actors/extras?).

The movie looks lovely. The script is pretty smart, and the film is filled with tons of references to King's other works (including a beautiful painting rendition of Roland, the rose, and The Dark Tower). The atmosphere is delightfully creepy, and there are some wonderful effects, while the story remains firmly focused on the characters.

Another excellent film adaptation from Darabont. Hopefully he works his curious magic on Farenheit 451 (which IMDB tells me is the next announced project, so take it with a grain of salt), as well.

By the time the movie was done, Trista and I emerged from the theater to find a thick fog settled over the parking lot. Under the impressionistic glow of the streetlamps, the cars were barely visible blobs of darkness. A few kids ventured out ahead of us, and I said to Trista, "Let's slow up a bit. Let the kids get eaten first." She laughed. The only screams we heard were those kids' laughter, so we found out way to the car.

The drive home was a surreal and eerie experience. A fine end to an eerie movie...