Film Review: The Mist at Dead by Dawn 2008, 26 April, Filmhouse, Edinburgh

27 Apr

The Mist

Over the past few days I’ve been lucky enough to be able to attend Edinburgh’s Dead by Dawn festival, run by ever-enthusiastic über host, Adèle Hartley. I’ve seen a handful of films and will cover them over the next few days, but the one I had to get to first was last night’s offering: Frank Darabont’s adaptation of the Stephen King novella, The Mist.

As Adèle pointed out in her introduction, and as all film fans are aware, an adaptation of a King story can be filed under two main categories: good and shockingly bad. For every Shining there’s a Langoliers, every Shawshank Redemption has a Lawnmower Man lurking nearby. Luckily 2007’s The Mist falls into the former category, and it’s a crime that it hasn’t yet been released in the UK.

In the opening moments we are introduced to artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) who, in a neat bit of King in-jokiness, is painting the movie poster to an as-yet unmade King adaptation. His work is interrupted by a sudden storm, which destroys various part of his property.

Leaving his wife behind and heading into town with his son and neighbour Brent Norton (Homicide: Life on the Street stalwart Andre Braugher) for supplies, Drayton soon finds himself taking refuge in the local supermarket with various townsfolk as a mist rolls in and they become cut-off from the outside world.

The plot locks on to you within the first ten minutes and doesn’t let go for the remainder of the picture. We know that something’s in that mist and are happy to be teased and led on a journey to find out what.

There’s also a fine roll-call of Darabont regulars on hand to help us on the path to discovering what’s going on. It’s not fair to single out any one actor as stealing the show as this is an ensemble piece but, for pure audience baiting, Marcia Gay Harden’s Mrs Carmody is a definite candidate. Her sickening religious zeal is perhaps slightly OTT – there are no redeeming features for this woman, so it’s perhaps too easy to dislike her – but the performance is note perfect.

Elsewhere, Toby Jones as Ollie gets some of the best lines while star Thomas Jane handles leading man duties well, his role vital but his character overshadowed all the way through by his co-stars.

To say much more about the plot would be to spoil it. Yes, there are monsters and no, they don’t always look 100% convincing (does CGI really have to be used so much in these things?) but it’s the emotions generated by the story’s twists that really stick in the memory.

And that ending.

If you haven’t read much about the film, then don’t. Really. This review is pretty spoiler-free, and I’d hope most others will be too, but the big aspect of the movie that will have you talking about this film long after it ends are the final five minutes. All I’ll say is that Darabont, and Hollywood, has done us proud. To find out any more before you see the film would be a real shame, so try not to google too much…you have been warned.

I was reminded a few times of one of my favourite films, Tremors. Group of people trapped together? Check. Monsters we don’t know anything about but have to work out their weaknesses? Check. Snappy one-liners and moments where the the plot turns on a dime? Check. There’s a B-movie feeling about The Mist that actually enhances the experience and this definitely doesn’t deserve to be relegated straight to DVD.

In a normal week I’d say this is one of the finest films I’ve seen in a long time, but with Persepolis just out, and reviews to come for another Dead by Dawn screening, Outpost, and Targets at the Cameo, I’ll just say that it’s a superb film that deserves a UK release soon – I’ll update the blog as soon as I hear more about this.

In the meantime, here’s a look at the US trailer:

Review by Jonathan Melville

Updated on 20 May 2008: I’ve just checked IMDB and see that the film now has a UK release date of Friday 4 July 2008. Good news.

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