The piece below was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the art being covered in this piece wouldn't exist.
I don’t know if this is accurate or my mind playing tricks on me, but my memory of my first viewing was that I really hated The Mist. I know, being young is a helluva thing. I remember the staggering ending sticking in my mind and being the reason I went back to the film. Looking back on it, I can only assume I mistook a visceral reaction for a negative one. What matters now is that I’ve long come around on The Mist and am here to sing its praises.
The setup is simple: following a major storm, David (Thomas Jane) goes into town to grab supplies along with his son, Bill (Nathan Gamble), and his neighbor Brent (Andre Braugher). At the supermarket, filled with locals, everyone notices the sirens and mobilizing police and military outside the store. One of their neighbors, bloodied and panicked, runs into the store and warns everyone about the mist and what lurks inside it. Barricaded inside the store, the film turns into a pressure cooker that is electric. Afraid of whatever’s in the mist, afraid of what happens if they leave the supermarket, afraid of what happens if they don’t leave the supermarket, and, ultimately, afraid of their neighbors. Every second of the film is unsettling and is a constant showcase for its tremendous ensemble.
It’s hard to pick a favorite performance because everyone is so good, so I’ll say that on this rewatch Andre Braugher stood out most. But that’s liable to shift to someone else next time I watch it. As Brent, Braugher is perfectly antagonistic toward David from the jump. Once in the supermarket, Brant’s character blossoms into a character who seems to be at odds with everyone. Not in a villainous way, but in the weary way of someone who has been hardened by life and has deep skepticism of everyone. Brent’s not a crotchety middle-aged man, he’s a guy trying to survive in a world that routinely justifies his self-preservational instincts.
The other standout performance goes to Marcia Gay Harden as the religious zealot Mrs. Carmody, who is certain that the mist and the dangers within are signs from God. In a situation where strong personalities are fighting to be the voice of reason, hers is the most terrifying. The terror comes from her certainty and in situations where nobody knows anything, the person with the most conviction gathers the most traction. The group dynamic Darabont explores is potentially the most interesting aspect of the film. He offers up so many perspectives, each believable in their desperation, that highlights how easy it is for people to splinter and turn on each other at the exact moment they should be coming together.
The Mist is a blistering social commentary, but, above all else, it’s a rollicking monster movie. Giant tentacles, flying creatures, big things, little things, it’s all nightmare fuel. Darabont maintains a balance between the threats the monsters and humans pose that ensures the audience never has a break from the relentlessness of the situation.
I’ve now seen The Mist a handful of times, including multiple viewings since receiving the review copy, and it plays better each time. Nowhere is that more evident than the film’s ending. I’ll dance around specifics for those who haven’t seen it, suffice to say it’s one of the ultimate gut punch endings you’ll ever see. It’s harrowing, cynical, and almost unbearably hopeless. I love it. When I first saw The Mist, the bleakness of the ending played like a sick joke that I couldn’t help being amused by as a know nothing 22 year-old. Now, as a parent and someone more world-weary, the ending hits so much harder in every way. After spending the entire film fighting to maintain hope, the remaining characters finally abandon that hope and accept the inevitability of their situation. And then… the final revelation hits and the audience is left devastated. It feels weird to say I love the ending given how dark it is, but Darabont earns every emotion in the film and that’s especially true of the closing moments.
If you haven’t seen The Mist, now is a great time to do so. In the litany of Stephen King adaptations, I don’t know if it’s the best, but it’s my favorite. Befitting a movie that absolutely rips from start to finish, Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist makes its 4K UHD disc debut with a truly spooktakular release. If you’re a fan of the film, and even if you’re not, this is a must own set. It includes 4K and Blu-ray copies of the film, in color and black and white, while carrying over the robust special features of previous editions. Those older features, like the commentary between Drabont and producer Denise Huth, are so good and informative that they nullify any potential disappointment over the lack of newer material.