One of the more intriguing subgenres of dark cinema is “bunker horror,” defined perfectly by George A. Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead. The template lies in a group of disparate (and increasingly desperate) individuals taking refuge in a makeshift stronghold, barricaded against some apocalyptic threat. The juice isn’t really in the threat itself, but in the examination of how those individuals react in the face of it.
Usually, they just can’t get their collective acts together and they all die. Fade to black.
With Frank Darabont’s long awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, here The Mist is the external threat, unleashed on a small Nor’eastern town and settling down around a supermarket. Inside, the consumers trolling the aisles for supplies abruptly find themselves to be the consumables, as barely glimpsed beasties tap against the fragile plate glass wall that separates them from sudden and grisly death. It doesn’t help matters much that within their group is a Bible-shouter who is slowly gathering together a cabal of recruits who think that offering up a blood sacrifice to an angry God is the only way out ("Hey! Kool-Aid!").
As Stephen King adaptations go, this is one of the best. If not the best. As Darabont began his slow build, my heart was pounding, my leg jittering. Occasionally, I jumped. Squeaked even … but in a manly way. If monster movies are your bag of popcorn, then I’d recommend seeing this in a theater.
Man, this is gonna be one bitter pill for any touchy Christians in the audience. I’m no fan of the more extreme of the bunch myself, but Darabont lays it on pretty thick here with the perceived bashing. More time was spent setting up the loopy Ol’ Testament gal and her growing band of bloodthirsty followers than was on the external threat.
And the ending … let’s just say that Darabont tries so hard not to fall into the Spielberg trap of blowing a perfectly fine movie by getting all hamfisted and manipulative in the final stretch. He ends up going so far around the bend that he falls right into Spielberg’s tracks.
In some regards, the ending feels so unearned and Old Testament in its own right that it feels out of place and context with what preceded it.
But as good ol’ fashioned horror films go, this is a more than welcome relief from the stalker flicks that litter the multiplex screens.