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The Mist (2007)

Dimension Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 3/25/2008 (updated on 9/1/2008)

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/20/2008

I can only imagine that every fiction writer wishes that they had a Frank Darabont. But, at the moment, he belongs only to Stephen King. Darabont adapted for the screen and directed the films The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, both of which are based on stories by King. Not only are these excellent films, but they go above and beyond the call of duty to retain the quality, and more importantly, the feel of King's original works. (The way in which Roman Polanski perfectly captured Ira Levins' novel in the movie version of Rosemary's Baby is an excellent comparison.) And while these are great movies, neither have the horror flavor for which King is best known. Now, Darabont is trying his hand at a King horror story with The Mist. Can he go 3-for-3?

As The Mist opens, a violent thunderstorm hits the small town of Castle Rock, Maine. The next morning, artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) surveys the damage and finds that several trees are down and that the power is out. He decides to go into town for supplies, and is accompanied by his son, Billy (Nathan Gamble), and their neighbor, Brent Norton (Andre Braugher), leaving his wife behind. As David is leaving, he notices a strange mist coming off of the local mountains. The trio arrives in town and goes to the grocery store. Once inside, that same mist creeps into the parking lot and engulfs the building. The shoppers and employees are merely curious at first, until a man runs into the store claiming that something is in the mist. Of course, some of the people are skeptical, but most find this disturbing and decide to stay put. When a group of men, lead by David, venture to the loading dock area in search of supplies, they are attacked by huge tentacles which come in through the door. David and the men attempt to convince the others, but many don't believe them...until a group of monsters attack the store, killing several people. From that point, the survivors trapped inside the market, split into two sides: those who want to stay and wait, and those who want to venture outside and look for help. This sets off a power-struggle between the two factions, even as the monsters swarm.

Get ready to send Darabont to the all-star game, because he's batting 1.000. He's changed a few things in his adaptation of The Mist, but he's crafted a very good horror movie here. And, as one would expect, he's really captured the feel of Stephen King's novella here.

The Mist works on two levels, as it is telling two stories. First, we have the "monster" horror movie. The film tells the story of a town (or more?) which is under siege by a opaque mist which contains deadly creatures. The monsters look like larger and mutated versions of somewhat recognizable animals. The movie doesn't pull any punches in portraying the fact that these characters are deadly and that they have some fairly gruesome ways of killing humans. If memory serves, the novella doesn't offer any concrete explanation for where the monsters come from, but the film does give us a sliver of an answer. However, the origin of the creatures isn't very important here (although it may bother some viewers). The point is that these are deadly creatures who have trapped the human characters. The creature effects in the film are very good (there is some nicely seamless CGI here) and the designs of the creatures (courtesy in part by legendary horror artist Bernie Wrightson) are quite creepy. (Some of them have somewhat human looking faces.)

The other story involves the "human" monsters in the film. The Mist offers a situation where people under extreme duress begin to not only take sides, but succumb to savagery. While the creatures outside of the grocery store are certainly scary, David begins to fear those inside who begin to see the event as a punishment from God, or who give up hope altogether. I typically don't like horror films where the focus shifts from the horror to a "mans' inhumanity against man" story, but it works in The Mist. For once, the characters are faced with a situation so dire that the extreme reactions aren't that surprising. Also, it's refreshing to see characters so fed up with the malicious behavior of their fellow humans that they'd rather take their chances amongst the otherworldly creatures. By film's end, we could debate who the real monsters were: the monsters who were following their instincts or the humans who give in to their darker desires.

The one point of The Mist which will definitely divide audiences is the film's ending. King's novella was open-ended, but Darabont has decided to give the movie one of the most shocking and bleakest endings that I've seen in quite some time. Even if the humans battling the monster didn't thrill you, the ending will leave you shaken. This is an example of a bold filmmaker who wanted a film that was horrific through to the end.

With The Mist, Frank Darabont has one again done justice to a Stephen King story. The movie has thrilling scenes with monster attacks, and it also features a very human drama showing the behavior of desperate people. The special effects are good and the monster are genuinely creepy. Again, some will hate the ending, but those who aren't afraid of a movie that pulls no punches will love it....well, respect it at least.

The Mist rolls in on DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases, and for the purposes of this review, the 2-disc collector's edition was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as it's notably sharp and clear. The image shows only a tiny amount of grain and there are no defects from the source material. The colors look good, and although much of the film takes place in the dark, the action is always visible. I noted some mild artifacting at times, but otherwise the picture is sound. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, especially during the attack sequences. However, during those same scenes, when people are running everywhere, the surround sound is very erratic and never constant. The subwoofer effects have a similar frequency, but they show up when it counts.

The Mist 2-disc Special Edition is loaded with extras. Disc 1 opens with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from writer/director Frank Darabont, also known as "we'll get into that later". Darabont is very energetic and his talk is thorough, but the way in which he constantly brings up topic and then delays addressing them is annoying. Otherwise, this is a good commentary as he addresses every aspect of the film's production from the locations, the sets, the actors, and the effects. He is very complimentary of his crew and gives us a ton of details about the movie. The DVD contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 15 minutes and can be viewed with commentary by Darabont. All of these scenes are simply extended versions of scenes from the film. There is some additional dialogue here, but nothing totally new. I was honestly surprised that there wasn't an alternate ending -- I guess they planned to go with that ending all along. "Drew Struzan: An Appreciation of an Artist" (7 minutes) is an interview with and profile of the famed movie poster artist whose work appears in the film. We get to see various examples of his work. There are three "Webisodes" (10 minutes total) which offer behind-the-scenes footage from the production of the film. Darabont offers an introduction for each. The DVD offers three THEATRICAL TRAILERS for the film.

Disc 2 offers The Mist in black & white. Darabont provides a 3-minute introduction as to why he did this version. This is certainly an interesting and unique idea if nothing else. In "When Darkness Came: The Making of The Mist" (37 minutes) Darabont talks about what inspired him to make the movie and why he decided to do it. We also get comments from Stephen King. Darabont then discusses his approach towards making the film and the fast-paced nature of the production. There is a look at the production design, the characters, and how the film was shot. "Taming the Beast: Shooting Scene 35" (12 minutes) examines the making of the night-time scene where the monsters first attack. "Monsters Among Us: A Look at the Creature FX" (13 minutes) has comments from creature designer Greg Nicotero and concept design artist Bernie Wrightson. We get a look at a lot of concept art, showing various incarnations of the creatures. There is behind-the-scenes footage of the monsters being built and manipulated on-set. With "The Horror of it All: The Visual FX of The Mist" (16 minutes) we get a detailed look at the creation of the CG creatures, and see how Darabont's visions were brought to life.

On September 16, 2008, The Weinstein Company also brought The Mist to Blu-ray Disc. The film is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc offers an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at 20 Mbps. There is some mild grain to the image, but it is definitely sharp and clear. The daytime exteriors at the film's beginning are extremely crisp and realistic. One the mist arrives, the image gets a bit dark at times, but the colors are very good. The image is nicely detailed and skin tones look fine. The picture has nice depth and the shots through the grocery store look nice. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track offers excellent surround sound during the attack sequences -- we hear the various monsters and people screaming throughout the store. The stereo effects are very detailed and feature great separation. The subwoofer comes to life at times, but seems to be lacking in some of the action sequences.

As with the DVD, the Blu-ray Disc is a two-disc set. Oddly, all of the extras from both DVDs are included on the Blu-ray Disc 1. Disc 2 contains only the Black & White version of the film, which sports the same technical specs as Disc 1. The Black & White image looks very good and it's very crisp and sharp. However, it's surprisingly flat looking, especially for a Blu-ray.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long