Saturday, October 4, 2008

THE MIST (Frank Darabont, 2007, USA) Frank Darabont reduces an exceptional Stephen King novella to a vacuous and polluted haze. The film’s basic structure is flawed in relying on quick objective characterizations in order to jump-start the action sequences. Darabont should have studied Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS before making this film and he would have learned that suspense is created slowly with wit, humor, and irony: witness the commonplace gone awry as these well-defined personalities change under pressure and trauma. THE MIST is haunted by caricatures that regurgitate inane dialogue seemingly from cue cards and without the narrative rhythm or beat of realistically spoken language. The acting is bad to the point of being funny and conflict is generated from emotional ether: accusations and slander fly, crude remarks made, biblical passages quoted all for the sake of friction…but instead of creating sparks it douses the drama in pointless prattle. Darabont’s lazy filmmaking fails to manipulate time and space which is crucial to the fear of being trapped in this frightful alien environment. The Supermarket should have become a prison, the shoppers attacked by their own inner demons and anxieties, the isles closing in like a maze, stalked by an unknown faceless fear. Has it been only hours since the world turned upside down, or days? Through this silent turmoil then there be monsters. Instead, Darabont creates situations that will result in the next bloodletting without any real viewer attachment: he wants to show us the next neat CGI bug and the myriad ways of killing people. But we’ve seen it all before from ALIENS, STARSHIP TROOPERS to a guilty pleasure, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS. He also dilutes every scene with verbose excess. The abysmal Mark Isham soundtrack attempts to add some epic quality to this apocalypse but instead subtracts thematically from the film’s overall sense of dread. The ending is violently nihilistic and the one thing I liked: David Drayton promised his son he wouldn’t let the monsters get him. Unfortunately, Darabont weakened a powerful sequence by extending it with slow motion and close-ups. The rumbling epiphany of steel and flames should have cut to black. (C-)

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