And Another Thing…

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Movie Reviewola

So I turned in two major assignments last week and decided to give myself a break. I rented Stephen King’s The Mist and Southland Tales.

The Mist, as you may have guessed, is an adaptation of a novella by Stephen King, originally published in his 1985 anthology Skeleton Crew. I have been a King fan since reading Carrie at age 13.  King has run hot and cold over the years, but The Mist is one of his better shorter works and is a story I always thought would make a great movie.  When I heard that Frank Darabont was directing the adaptation, my expectations went through the roof. Some of you may remember that Darabont is the fellow who has made not one, but two excellent adaptations of two of King’s best works, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.  He is one of the few directors who actually gets King (and for those of you who have never read King because of what you have heard, let me assure you that his best work, even his mediocre work, is about a whole lot more than creepy-crawly things that go bump in the night).

The Mist begins with a late night storm ravaging a seaside community in New England.  The main character, David Drayton (Thomas Jane), his wife, and young son ride the storm out in their cellar.  The next morning, while surveying the damage, David, his family, and their neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) notice an unusually thick mist in the distance, but think nothing of it.  We discover through the course of their tense conversation that the Draytons and the Nortons have a history of tension over the kinds of disputes that happen between bad neighbors. Regardless, David decides to try to bury the hatchet and offers Brent a ride to the grocery store. With his car having been crushed by a falling tree, Brent readily accepts.

Once at the store, David, Brent, and David’s son Billy find the market full of people; and Darabont efficiently uses this scene to introduce us to the rest of the characters.  As they wait in line to check out, Dan Miller (Jeffrey DeMunn), a local, comes screaming into the store, looking bloody and disheveled, with the mist following behind him and begs the manager to lock the doors. Miller keeps saying that something in the mist is taking people. After the manager complies, the store patrons discover that Miller was not exaggerating and that there are things in the mist that want to get into the store. With no knowledge of what is in the mist, how far the mist has spread, or if they have any chance of rescue, the store patrons soon begin to take sides and the danger in the store is as great as what is outside of the store.  The rest of the movie is a creepy, claustrophobic thriller and pop sociological study.

The casting is excellent, with standouts including Braugher (will someone please get this guy another leading role?), Toby Jones as Ollie, the assistant manager who becomes one of David’s allies, and Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs. Carmody, a religious fanatic who believes that the strange goings-on are a sign of (surprise!) apocalypse.  Some will point out that Mrs. Carmody is a stereotype and cliche, yet to his credit Darabont doesn’t try to portray her as an evangelical; rather, she comes off as a deluded woman who has fashioned her own bizarre variation on faith as an outlet for her disorder.  The special effects work for the most part (I especially liked that they avoided a dependence on CGI), and Darabont makes a surprising and nifty twist in the end that deviates from the source material but nicely complements the movie’s theme of hope vs. despair.

                                                  

This brings us to Southland Tales, and a different experience altogether.  This is Richard Kelly’s long awaited follow-up to Donnie Darko (2001), one of the weirder, more original films of the decade. And having watched it, I still am not 100% certain what Southland Tales is supposed to be about. It seems to be about how time travel, totalitarianism (in the name of national security) and the creation of a perpetual source of energy will destroy the world. Not a lot of it makes sense, from the casting to the directing to the sporadic bursts of violence to the beyond-weird ending. I recommend it only for the morbidly curious.

On an unrelated note – To my fellow WordPress users: What did they do with spell-check?!

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9 Responses

  1. J D says:

    I think spell check is gone bro!

    Thanks for the review. I read probably the first 15 or so King books, but life got busy ya know? And he kept writing telephone book size tomes … so … anyway… I tried to make it through the Dark Tower Trilogy … I had the first two read…the first one was AWESOME… the second was GOOD, but tooooo LONG…. the the third one was waiting for me on the bottom shelf of my book case when katrina’s flood surge paid a visit and I never re-bought it. But I probably wouldn’t take the time to read it.

  2. Kelly says:

    I really thought ‘the Mist’ was an excellent adaption. Darabont does an amazing job with King’s work, I really think it’s one of those rare horror movies that will stand the test of time. And what a gutsy ending! Not many film makers have the courage to hold on to such a dark ending. It was done in the way that ‘I Am Legend’ should have been!

  3. odgie says:

    JD – By his own admission, King suffers from (his words) diarrhea of the word processor. I managed to finish the “Dark Tower” series. It has a wealth of cool ideas but the story could have been better if cut back to 3 to 5 books. Have you heard that JJ Abrams is going to try to adapt them?

    Kelly – If there is any justice, “The Mist” will go down as one of the great horror movies. And I liked the ending too.

  4. andy says:

    I hated “The Mist.” Film critic types may love it, but frankly I saw no value in it whatsoever, except perhaps to give a few people that final shot of hopelessness they need to go through with their ambitions of suicide.

  5. Kelly says:

    Andy, what is your favorite horror movie? Just wondering if I’m that dumb that I thought ‘the Mist’ was great, or maybe our tastes are just different. A good topic for discussion anyway, what is your favorite horror movie? I’d like to see a lot of people’s opinions.

  6. odgie says:

    Kelly,

    Given that we are discussing something like movies, where opinions are inherently subjective, I don’t think it’s a matter of right or wrong. Obviously, since we are both fans of King, Darabont, and this particular story we can understand each other’s point of view. However, it’s not hard to understand Andy’s point, even if I disagree.

    [SPOILER]

    The ending of “The Mist” is a nasty little kick, no matter what. But that is the thing about the horror genre – sometimes part of the horror is that things don’t work out for the good guys.

  7. andy says:

    Well, I agree that it’s pretty much subjective. Liking a particular movie doesn’t make you stupid (if it did, I’d have an IQ of about 20). For me it’s not that the good guys don’t win, there are plenty of movies that I like where the good guys lose. It’s just that the entire film seemed to be one long descent further into despair, so that I wasn’t even surprised by the ending…it was kind of like knowing beforehand that someone was going to kick you in the crotch, but not being able to do anything about it.

    As for horror movies generally, right now there aren’t many American ones that I like, except perhaps for unintentional comedic value. I do like some of the older ones (Psycho, The Shining, etc) and I like some of the recent Asian horror movies.

  8. Kelly says:

    Yeah, yeah, not trying to start an argument. Obviously it’s a subjective topic. Still wonder what other folks favorite scary movies are. Andy, you got two of my favorites there with ‘Psycho’ and ‘the Shining’. What about John Carpenter’s remake of ‘the Thing’? How ’bout ‘the Exorcist’? Anyone else have some favorites?

  9. odgie says:

    Kel,

    You know my tastes run similar to yours. I was thinking the other day about remakes and such, and the movie that popped into my mind was “The Haunting.” The original was a low-key affair that generated it’s thrills with some creative sound effects and one special effect (a buckling door), and it scared the crap out of me. The remake was a bombastic, CGI fiasco that didn’t scare me once. On the other hand, John Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing” exceeds the original in just about every way, in part because of the tone and in part because of the special effects. Weird how it works for one movie but not the other.

    Back to “The Mist”: Again, I see Andy’s point despite my disagreements. The whole movie does have a kind of gloomy tone, and a striking cynicism about human nature. But I still like the movie because it is internally consistent and, simply speaking, gave me a good scare.

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