So many films based upon Stephen King novels have been made over the past 30-plus years, you'd think they would have run out. In fact, they practically did run out, remaking some of them as TV movies ("The Shining," "Carrie" and "Salem's Lot," which was a TV miniseries twice). Funny then that one of Stephen King's best, a novella from 1980 called "The Mist", never did get made into a movie. I remember reading it a couple of decades ago and it was indeed excellent, but perhaps too fantastic to translate to the silver screen. At least back then.
Now, 27 years after it was published, "The Mist" finally gets the full big-budget movie treatment from the director of "The Shawshank Redemption." I cannot be enthusiastic enough about the movie that's resulted. It's the best Stephen King movie ever made, yes better than Brian De Palma's "Carrie" even, and the best horror movie in over 20 years. While I know I only just named "28 Weeks Later" best horror film in over a decade, "The Mist" is far and away the better film.
What makes the film great is the original story and Darabont's faithful and intelligent adaptation of it. Darabont has directed King before ("Shawshank Redemption," "The Green Mile"), but never a King horror novel. So his take on the story puts character development front and center, something that horror films often ignore. The performances are all top notch. This is a flawless horror movie.
The film opens with a storm in a small town community that sends a tree crashing down on the home of a local artist (Thomas Jane), kills the power and, apparently, cell phone reception as well. Kissing his wife goodbye, the artist and his young son (Nathan Gamble) go to the supermarket to pick up some supplies. A few military personnel from a nearby base also happen to be there. Then, a mist rolls into town enveloping everything outside the market. People start screaming. It becomes clear to the crowd packed in the market, including the local town Christian crazy (Marcia Gray Harden) that something in the mist is killing people. At first, they suspect the mist is some kind of chemical cloud. Then, an incident happens in the back of the store that convinces our hero otherwise.
As the hours pass, tribes develop within the crowd inside the store: At first between those that believe something supernatural is in the mist, and those that don't. And finally between those that believe in the End Times and those that simply want to survive. Gray Harden is particularly compelling as the zealot leader of the religious crowd.
As some of the characters make a trek to the pharmacy store next door in order to get medication, we are treated to some real nail-biting, creature-feature terror the likes of which we haven't seen in a horror film in a long, long time.
Like the novella, the film captures the changes people probably would go through if thrust in a situation like this, and Darabont is able to capture the essence of these characters better than any other director that has tackled a Stephen King story before. This film is even better than Kubrick's "The Shining." It's hard to underestimate just how good a movie this is.
Walking away from, you get the same feeling you had reading a great King novel. You realize that King is a genius – and Darabont had what it took to capture his vision and put it on the screen in a way no director has been able to do before.
To make a long story short, stop whatever you are doing now and see this movie.