Lost in a fog

Dude, are you drunk? What are you going to do with that long stick? Nothing kills evil mist better than a long stick, you moron.

Dude, are you drunk? What are you going to do with that long stick? Nothing kills evil mist better than a long stick, you moron.

Rated 2.0

“Something … in The Mist! Clichés! For the love of Stephen King! Horrifying, movie-damaging clichés!”

I must admit that when the first sign of trouble in the new King adaptation The Mist appeared, I was amply scared. After a storm blasts out a few windows and a boathouse, David Drayton (the film’s protagonist, played by Thomas Jane) watches the hills beyond a lake as a strange mist rumbles down to the water. It strikes him as odd, and it most certainly is. It also looks really cool and creepy.

David thinks it’s just a strange, misguided fog, and it quickly loses his attention. He grabs his son Billy (Nathan Gamble) and his crotchety lawyer neighbor, Brent (Andre Braugher), and they pile into his car. They head to town to grab a few after-storm necessities and, perhaps, a small break from the partial ruins of their homes. While inside the supermarket, Dan (played by the wonderful character actor, Jeffrey DeMunn) runs into the store just ahead of the rolling mist screaming that something carried his friend away. At this point, the film is still scary.

As it turns out, the mist is full of strangely mutated bugs, octopi and huge dinosaur-like insects that have a taste for human blood. The townsfolk don’t have any explanations for what’s going on; they just know they have to deal and deal now.

The film is directed by Frank Darabont, the man responsible for The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, two fine King adaptations. It’s interesting to watch Darabont tackle some more straightforward horror fare from King, but that doesn’t make it much good. While Darabont proves capable with some of the horror stuff, the human interplay gets way out of hand and silly to the point of distraction and eventual movie ruination.

When the monsters are attacking people, the movie can be fun, although I take issue with some of the CGI effects. There are moments when the computer-created monsters seamlessly merge with their human counterparts. There are also moments when either the monsters look like cartoons or the actor and CGI action doesn’t synch up well. By Hollywood standards, this flick was pretty cheap and, at times, it shows.

I could forgive the sometimes sloppy effects. What I couldn’t take was Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs. Carmody, a fire and brimstone preaching townie who believes that the monsters are harbingers for the end of days. She thrusts her Bible into the air and beckons the townspeople to choose sides, and she is as annoying a movie character as I’ve witnessed all year. I’ll put her right up there with the dickhead Jamie Kennedy played in Kickin’ It Old Skool.

Darabont wants to show how humans react in a panic situation, but I remain wholly convinced that people like Carmody are mostly in the imagination of screenwriters and actors. Yes, I’ve been around some religious nuts in my time, but characters like Mrs. Carmody are just a matter of convenience for filmmakers. Granted, I think there are performers out there who could make Carmody a fun, outrageous character. Harden just makes her a loudmouthed bore. Every time she talked, I just wanted her to shut the hell up.

Thomas Jane is actually quite good in the main role. This is a good actor who keeps showing up in movies that don’t cut it (The Punisher, The Sweetest Thing, Dreamcatcher—another Stephen King misfire). He makes David a sympathetic character who we can root for in between the moments when Harden is puking dialogue. Supporting characters played by Braugher, DeMunn, William Sadler and Toby Jones are also decent.

The Mist has a doomsday ending that I appreciated and some sequences that work well. Without the Harden character, I probably would give this a mild recommendation, even with the sub-par effects. With Harden, it’s a partial burden to watch. Marcia Gay Harden: Movie Wrecker.