Fear and Madness in the Unknown
Stephen King has published and released many unique, and compelling horror stories and books throughout his career. One iconic story is his 1980’s novella, The Mist. The story tells the ordeal of several groups of people inside a supermarket while the world around them is enshrouded by a mysterious mist filled with monsters. Made into a film in 2007, The Mist was directed by Frank Darabont, who collaborated with Stephen King in other film adaptations Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.
The Mist is a monster movie with moments of suspense and, although the creatures are an ever present threat, they are not the focus of tension. Much of the film focuses on themes of isolation, paranoia, and the maddening dread of the unknown. Stephen King’s inspirations for this story were H.P. Lovecraft and his themes of Lovecraftian horror. The film is faithful to the novella and follows David Drayton, played by Thomas Jane, as he tries to keep his young son safe in a supermarket from the mysterious creatures that inhabit the mist as people grow irrationally scared and paranoid around him.
The film showcases different types of horror themes, with one of the central ones being how the fear of uncertainty leads to madness and a breakdown of society. Before anything happens in the town, there was already passive tension between local and non-local residents. As the events of The Mist occur, the breakdown of the community escalates when Mrs Carmody starts gaining influence on the people trapped in the supermarket. Despite the monsters shrouded in the mist, the terror and paranoia makes the human characters potentially worse than any creature.
The Mist has cheesy moments with actors overacting their character archetypes. Examples include Andre Braugher portraying a stubborn attorney with a grudge to William Sadler being an exaggerated town hick. Still, they succeed in making viewers empathize with the characters as well as frustrated with the degrading situation as something beyond their control starts taking over.
As with any good monster film, The Mist delivers some nightmarish creature designs. Not much is known about the beasts shown in the film other than they all came from the same kind of world. As such a major design concept is to build an ecosystem around these creatures to make them feel like natural animals of their environment. Because these are instinctual predators, it makes any horror moment with them situational or at the fault of the humans leaving the safety of the supermarket.
One of the final aspects of The Mist worth mentioning is the soundtrack. Throughout the film, the soundtrack builds on the tension in the supermarket, the eerie ambiance of the mist, and the sudden action when a creature attacks the characters. An impactful song played twice during the third act of the film was The Host of Seraphim, a haunting song by Dead Can Dance. The song sells the uncertainty of how far the mist has gone and the hopelessness felt by David and his companions.
The original novella of The Mist ended ambiguously with no clear resolution to the characters’ fates. They could have been rescued or devoured by monsters. This level of uncertainty was played with in the cinematic version, except there was a more definite ending that wraps everything up by bringing back the themes in the first two acts. Humans and society are always driven and terrified by the uncertainty of their lives and The Mist shows what results when they succumb to fear.
Being a compelling story with valuable lessons of patience and perseverance in the wake of the unknown, The Mist has become one of the most memorable films of its time. The special effects aged well thanks to the subtlety of the misty effects and the minor creature scenes peppered throughout. The Mist is a definite full-price buy for its compelling themes, engaging characters to love and hate, and creative creature design.
The Mist (2007) Official Trailer