Dir. Frank Darabont (2007)
A strange mist descends on the town of Castle Rock, Maine, and the monsters that live within prevent a group of townspeople from leaving the local supermarket.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The Mist has attained something of a cult status, which should come as no surprise to fans of director Frank Darabont's previous work. He's made a name for himself directing arguably the best adaptations of Stephen King's works (and inarguably one of the best American films ever made with The Shawshank Redemption), and while the film we're talking about today doesn't quite live up to those masterpieces, it's a delightfully chilling tale filled with some awesome monsters and one of the most shocking endings in film history. I won't spoil it here (despite the fact that the movie is fifteen years old), but suffice it to say that the film's ending has made what is otherwise a relatively forgettable monster movie into a modern cult classic.
The town of Castle Rock has been through some shit. This time, the locals find themselves under attack by a bunch of Lovecraftian monsters who have descended upon the town within a mysterious mist that quickly envelops the entire town. David Drayton (Thomas Jane) has taken his young son to the supermarket to grab some supplies to repair his house, damaged by a large storm that blew a tree through his picture window, and the pair find themselves trapped inside the store with a bunch of other townspeople who are just about the best representation of Mainers I've ever seen. (Side note: I lived in Maine for about five years, and that accent still drives me fucking nuts.)
As things go from bad to worst, including some gnarly kills by these bizarre creatures, the townsfolk begin to adapt in different ways. Some run into the mist, determined to take their chances, while Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden in one of her absolute best roles), a local nutball, has decided that she is the messenger of God and begins commanding the people she slowly wins to her side to become her agents of vengeance in order to atone for the sins that have brought the judgment of God down on the town. It's not difficult to imagine a situation like this occurring, especially not in a world where certain deceased "preachers" have said that Hurricane Katrina happened because gay people exist. Thankfully, we have the heroic Drayton and his dripping-with-sexual-tension-despite-the-fact-that-they're-both-seemingly-happily-married new friend Amanda Dunfrey (Laurie Holden), a local teacher who is more than happy to stand with Drayton against the religious wackadoos.
It's easy to see why The Mist doesn't receive the same critical acclaim as Darabont's previous two King adaptations: it's a straight-up monster movie, and even the religious commentary usually takes a backseat to the creepy-crawlies flying about in the fog surrounding the store. The film is also a good bit too dependent on CGI, though to be fair, these creatures would've been a rough ask to be done with practical effects with the budget for the film. The clearly computer-generated monsters are definitely distracting at times, potentially preventing the film from becoming an all-time classic in the horror genre. There's also a good bit of hamming around from the cast, with even Jane, as good as he is in the film, giving a somewhat uneven performance.
Don't get me wrong, Jane has some truly powerful scenes where he knocks it out of the park. The real star of the show, however, is Harden, who is always amazing but gives an incredible (and incredibly chilling) performance as the maniacal grocery store preacher. The religious fervor is palpable, delivering a fantastic commentary on the ability to weaponize faith and prophecy to make people do things they would otherwise never even consider. Harden's performance makes Mrs. Carmody a true believer, a truly frightening character who has been echoed in real-life way more times than she should be.
And again... that ending. Phew. The movie is worth a watch for that alone.
While this is certainly not Darabont's best film (as unfair as that is with Shawshank and The Green Mile as competition), The Mist is a powerful and disturbing movie that is way better than it looks on the surface. The actors are good-to-great, the creatures are utterly terrifying, and Darabont manages to bring a difficult-to-film Stephen King story to life exactly as one can picture it while reading. While the current title of Best Stephen King Story Director has clearly been passed down to Mike Flanagan (link interview), The Mist is another great addition to Darabont's adaptation legacy.
Who this movie is for: Stephen King fans, Religious horror fanatics, People who don't know the difference between The Mist and The Fog
Bottom line: The performances are at times uneven and the creatures are often distractingly digital, but The Mist remains a fantastic Stephen King adaptation that is perhaps the most disturbing of them all. Marcia Gay Harden delivers an all-time performance as an unhinged religious zealot and Thomas Jane delivers a masterclass on grief acting. If you haven't seen this already, check it out and see why it's made its name as a modern cult classic.