Released in the US last year, the timing of the arrival of Frank Darabont's adaptation of Stephen King's novella to these shores is puzzling. The third King adaptation to be filmed by Darabont following 'The Shawshank Redemption' and 'The Green Mile', 'The Mist' is an almost unique story in the great writer's canon in that it doesn't have an ending. Darabont of course rectifies this in the most explosive and thought provoking fashion, making for a film that is anything but the feelgood hit of the summer.
David Drayton (Jane) is an artist living in a quiet lakeside, typically American town with his wife and young son. When a heavy storm knocks out phones and electricity in the area, David and his son make a trip to the local store to pick up supplies. Before they depart, they notice a heavy mist making its way across the lake and army trucks heading at speed in its direction.
Within minutes of arriving at the store, the mysterious mist surrounds the car park and a distressed local comes running in for cover, terrified at something he's just witnessed.
Fearful of what lies await outside, those inside elect to remain within the claustrophobic confides of the grocery store until they learn more of what they are up against. As the fear envelopes them, so too does it divide them, thrusting them into disparate groups, each with a different theory as to what they are facing.
Given that 'The Mist' comes from the pen of genre giant Stephen King, it is typically being billed as a horror movie. However, like King's best horror stories, it is atypical of the genre and in truth closer to a suspense movie.
Filmed almost entirely on the one set – that of the supermarket – Darabont builds on the sense of claustrophobia, and the way people react to, or are controlled by fear. In this sense, he draws interesting parallels with the current political climate in the US - how the fear of that which is unknown can often debase people to their most primal and how survival becomes priority number one.
Such scenes are all acted out by a superb, mostly unknown, cast of character actors who create a growing sense of tension as the film progresses. There are times when the film begins to unfold too slowly over the two-hour duration, though for the most part Darabont unfolds things at a steady pace, as he keeps the audience guessing as to what will happen next.
In this regard the film's ending will stun viewers and likely become the movie's central talking point. As aforementioned, King's 1980 novella finishes open-ended. It is a method which wouldn't work onscreen and so the film's conclusion is all from the mind of Darabont, an avid King fan. Keeping his ending almost totally secret (even the actor's were kept out of the loop until the scenes were filmed), it is incredible that a huge Hollywood studio allowed him to end a major movie in such fashion.
'The Mist' is not an overtly scary movie. It is not shocking in the sense you might expect, and terrifying monsters are kept to a minimum. It is, though, very watchable, suspenseful cinema, and a work which will provoke thought as much as it will entertain.