The novella "The Mist" is a wonderful monster story, perfection in simplicity. The mist comes. There are monsters in the mist.
And such awful monsters, too. Hideous, strong, lethal to the point of downright meanness. When I saw the spiders shoot their webs, I remembered before they struck "oh yeah... the webs burn." And I thought: these here are animals that are really hard to live with.
But unfortunately, any real zing I got from the movie came from the memory of reading the story. Certain elements were at least adequate, the depiction of the monsters was fun and at times surprising, but...
1. Thomas Jane is just a dud. You don't think so at first -- he seems fine, he's tall and good looking, he's likeable. But after seeing him in The Mist and HBO's Hung and realizing I'd seen him in Deep Blue Sea and immediately forgotten him, I've come to learn that Thomas Jane does not possess the charisma necessary to be a leading man. Which is too bad, because he's the main character in all those things I just mentioned, including the movie that I instantly forgot he was in.
(Like... while I was still watching it even.)
He's a zero. Likeable, but you come to feel like he's wasting your time. Like maybe a small Easter Island head in a gray sweater might be just as good in that role. And now that you mention it, maybe that's what you got.
2. Stupid behavior can be a dealbreaker in a horror movie, and this flick offers many different flavors. When the lights attract watermelon-sized bugs, everybody stares at them for quite some time, watching them gather. They're HUGE bugs and not one person thinks to be scared of them, or suggest turning out the lights. Earlier, at a point when only a handful of people have witnessed a monster attack, Thomas Jane's hostile neighbor is loudly skeptical that there really is any danger, and he forms a schism in the group when a number of people agree with him. And they all go out into the mist to prove their point (and are never seen again). Why not just have one or two guys go check it out first? And the ending... well, I'll have a spoiler warning first.
3. Yes, the religious fanatic played by Marcia Gay Harden is in the story, and yes, it's a realistic look at how people will act, yes yes yes. But you still wind up with a lot of air time turned over to religious jibber jabber, and that's annoying to listen to. You really have to think to keep that part of a screenplay interesting, and this movie fell short.
4. With the exception of the spiders, the monsters ranged from "good enough" to "really freaky good," but I didn't like the spiders. Unfortunately, once they showed up they became the go-to monster for much of the rest of it, and like Tomas Jane, their brand of cheese quickly went bad.
At first glance this picture would not seem to serve my point, but when you see them move, with their big pointy claws sticking straight down like that, and their ostentaciously spiky backs, they get to "meh" pretty fast. At least for me. They're not animated all that well, is what I'm saying.
Here's where I will want to get spoily, but to urge you forward regardless, here's my comment from JPX's review of this:
"I haven't seen this, but a friend of mine was bitching about the ending and I asked him to just tell me what happened. I'm glad I asked -- if I'd watched that cold it would have pissed me off to no end. I know what I like."
Okay, SPOILERS ahead. Don't read past the picture. So, in short... uh, you can suck it, The Mist. To show my disrespect, here's a picture of mist shrouding something innocuous.
So Thomas Jane uses the last four bullets on his friends and son to save them the horror of being eaten by monsters. Then he screams a bunch and gets out of the car to get eaten by monsters. But instead the mist dissipates, and the army shows up, torching monsters and hauling out truckloads of refugees.
First of all, here's stupid behavior item number three: why blow everyone's brains out the moment you run out of gas? Fight a little bit! Or to put it another way, fight not at all -- because there aren't any monsters attacking you. Just don't kill yourselves for the five minutes everything is quiet and peaceful and see what happens. Because if you do, you'll see that the army is going to show up. Seriously, in about five minutes. So be cool.
Last of all, that's just a horrible device to use in a movie. I always think of it as the "won the lottery, lost the ticket" device, the tragically horrible ironic coincidence. These things are horrible for a reason, and that is because sick accidents like this DO happen, but in a movie there aren't any accidents. In movies they're mostly just cheap maneuvers to whip up effect, like some kind of dehydrated drama flakes. As with religious zealot characters, you have to do that shit right to make it work. Romeo and Juliet pull it off, for example. Thomas Jane, not so much.
If I had any thoughts about giving this movie a break, they were expelled by the shot in the end. Among the refugees in the trucks is the mother who left the supermarket alone to help her children, and the three of them ride past looking meaningfully at the facepalming Thomas Jane.
Is this movie about choices now? Roads not taken? Having a better idea than shooting everyone in the head? Would everything have been different if he helped this lady out, is that what you're saying, movie? Hmph. I return to my earlier position. You can suck it, The Mist.
P.S. It was totally awesome that Marcia Gay Harden got shot in the head. Stupid behavior number four was that it should've happened sooner.