As any fan of Howard Hawks, George A. Romero or John Carpenter will know, it’s not the monsters outside your window that you should worry about. It’s the people who are trapped indoors with you. Your friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues. The Humans. They’re the most horrific things of all.
This dreary set-up has inspired a handful of great films — from The Thing from Another World (1951) through to Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Thing (1982). A rich lineage, indeed. And although it doesn’t add anything particularly new, Frank Darabont’s The Mist may well deserve a place alongside them.
The Mist sticks pretty closely to its Stephen King source — a 1981 novella of the same name — making it considerably brisker and more fantastic than Darabont’s previous King features, The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999).
The narrative is endearingly straightforward. A father and his young son (Thomas Jane and Nathan Gamble) head into the small town of Castle Rock, Maine, to pick up supplies after a storm. While they’re in the local supermarket, the eponymous mist descends. It holds all manner of Lovecraftian nasties, forcing our heroes to hole-up in the building. Problem is, they’re stuck in there with Mrs Carmody (Marcia Gay Holden), a religious nut who soon whips up panic and holy terror. Cue attacks from within and without.
Much of The Mist is happily reminiscent of a 1950s sci-fi movie. For starters, it has an innocent fascination in the extraordinary — from the monsters in the mist to the ‘inter-dimensional rift’ that may have brought them to Castle Rock. Computer-generated images they may be, but the creatures are as imaginatively — and, dare I say, as lovingly — rendered as many of Ray Harryhausen’s Dynamation efforts.