Let me get this out up front. I am a huge proponent of director's intent. I loathe Ted Turner's push to "colorize" classic films like It's A Wonderful Life amongst others. Furthermore, I am completely opposed to when production companies force directors to sacrifice their visions in the name of ticket sales and accessibility. This was the case for Frank Darabont's adaptation of Stephen King's novella The Mist. Darbont's intent was to release the film in black and white for a variety of cinematic and thematic reasons, yet; his producers refused him this right and demanded that it be in color. While I cannot speak to it being the reason it fell to the wayside that year for horror films, I strongly feel as though its critical acclaim may have increased considerably were he allowed to film it with the chiaroscuro elements of black and white present. Luckily, for cinephiles, the most recent DVD release includes the black and white version of the film as an extra disc feature and it is the vision that this post shall review, because I am simply going to pretend the color version does not exist. With the choice to remove color, The Mist becomes a much more astute social commentary that emits moments of abrasive imagery that makes viewers cringe in discomfort, much like Tony Kaye's seminal documentary on Abortion titled Lake of Fire...a term that to no surprise emerges on at least one occasion within The Mist. If it were not for Kubrick's version of The Shining, Darabont's adaptation could well be my new favorite take on a Stephen King work, although it appears that at least one movie a year is an adaptation of the prolific writers work, so that statement could change quite quickly.
The Mist focuses on life in a rural Maine town following a storm of cataclysmic proportions. Painter David Drayton (Thomas Jane) serves as the films main character, as he attempts to make amends with his neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braughber) after a tree from his yard destroys his boathouse. Realizing the frivolity of the entire situation, both David and Brent, along with David's son Billy (Nathan Gamble) head to the town grocery to gather supplies to begin repairing their respective houses. While the power is out at the grocery things seem relatively normal and each begins doing their shopping, however, things become unusual as military police begin showing up and demanding that a group of young recruits cut their leave short to help in clean up. Things grow suspicious quickly and are only worsened when a town resident runs out of the mist into the store claiming to have viewed something in the dense fog. This event begins the flickers of paranoia within the grocery store, which will provide the setting for most of the films remainder, as David leads an expedition to the stores docking bay, which proves the claims of a creature being in the mist to be true. A tentacled beast and many mutated bugs exist in the fog and begin preying on the various people within the grocery. At this point, things begin to fall apart within the store, people begin arguing over whether or not to stay, which ultimately proves to be the dividing point between David and Brent. Furthermore, a fire and brimstone spouting woman begins to convert followers with her claims of the mist and the beasts as being a sing of the end of days. While at first her claims are dismissed, with the death of various people and the continual attacks of the monsters she begins to recruit followers, eventually becoming so maddened as to suggest sacrificing Billy to the creature. David reacts quickly and with the help of a handful of other people escapes the grocery store and grabs a truck to escape. On their drive out of town, toward Portland, they see the various creatures, most notably a gigantic spider like beast roaming above them. Along the way they run out of gas, completely incapable of doing anything, David uses a gun to take those travelling with him out of their misery, including his own son. He is left alone without any bullets to linger in loneliness. As David steps out of his car to scream in agonizing defeat, military vehicles drive by him to rescue survivors and burn down the infestations of the monsters, if only his group had waited ten more minutes they would have survived the entire ordeal.
The Mist, as Darabont has stated himself, is not about the monsters that exist in the exterior world of the film, but instead those that exist in the interior minds of the people within the film, whether it be David's own struggle to assert himself as a respectable father, or Brent's concern with proving himself as a respectable outsider, even if doing so means legal actions. Even the narratives secondary characters find themselves battling inner demons, most notably Ollie (Toby Jones) the stores assistant manager who constantly struggles to assert authority despite being of small stature and his being victim to continual ridicule by his superior. King's work also exudes the issues of religious proclamations in the face of troubled times and in Darabont's adaptation it is clearly suggested that the religious zealot Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) is doing more harm than good by proselytizing to the individuals trapped in the store. However, Darabont also chooses not to depict her character's imminent death, perhaps as a bleak commentary on the future of religious extremism in America. Finally, the film has a certain timelessness about it, something that Darbont admitted to intending within the film, while David certainly possesses as cellular phone, everything else within the film suggests a an America from various generations, whether it be the 80's style vehicles or the 50's feel of the town grocery. The struggles and turmoils of an American unity is central to the film and The Mist reminds viewers that a constant demand for opposition only hinders America. I am unintentionally on a kick of "storm as a metaphor" films, but I do not mind that considering that, they have all been enjoyable and it seems as though the paranoia of something worse to come is pertinent in the rhetoric of the upcoming political election, as well as the continually worsening state of the world economy.
Key Scene: The scene in which David finds his wife after leaving the grocery store is incredibly oneiric.
The Mist in black and white is something to be viewed, while it is not an incredibly important film it is quite enjoyable and worth renting, although make sure to get the second disc, because that is where you will find the black and white version which is the one you want to watch.