Screenwriters: Frank Darabont
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Toby Jones, Andre Braugher, Laurie Holden
Running Time: 127 mins
The last two times Frank Darabont adapted a Stephen King novella for the big screen, the results were Oscar-worthy box office smashes. Darabont's The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most beloved films of all time and 1999's The Green Mile isn't far behind in terms of critical acclaim and fan adulation. Unfortunately for the director, this means that there's more than a little bit of expectation surrounding his latest King project, The Mist.
The Mist centres around the activities of everyman hero David Drayton (Jane), a commercial artist who lives in Maine with his wife and son Billy. When a freak storm knocks a tree through his home in the middle of the night, he is forced to travel to the local supermarket with Billy and his neighbour Brent (Braugher). Despite noticing some mist on the lake in the morning and all the phone lines being down, he doesn't consider the day to be stranger than any other.
Unsurprisingly, this elongated set-up, showcasing a cosy, all-American family life and warm-hearted local characters is just toying with viewers before the horrors of The Mist arrive. Nobody's quite sure what's caused the sudden surge of grey clouds, but anybody who steps out of the grocery store is swept up, gobbled up and spat out by whatever is hidden within it.
When Drayton witnesses a baggage boy (played by The Sherminator from the American Pie movies) getting savagely killed by a creature with giant tentacles in the store basement, he attempts to take control of the spiralling crisis situation. However, with local religious nut Mrs Carmody (Harden) preaching to shoppers about the end of the world and Brent unwilling to forget an old neighbourly dispute, he finds himself battling not only the creatures in The Mist, but also the townspeople in the store.
While The Mist is by no means a classic movie in the mould of Shawshank, it certainly pulls its own weight as a blockbuster horror movie. Darabont exquisitely captures the growing tension in the supermarket, with Toby Jones as Ollie the store manager and Marcia Gay Harden offering sterling performances as characters dealing with the pressure cooker situation in completely opposing manners.
The concept of people being stuck inside a building while an unknown enemy lurks outside is a well-worn horror format, but Darabont's faithfulness to King's original text and fine casting ensures there's plenty to keep audience members thinking between the inevitable gore, action and shuddering crescendo. In fact, it's questionable as to whether the giant spiders, flies and other ghouls lurking in the mist are actually the scariest part of the movie. The scene where Mrs Carmody calls on her newly-recruited Christian followers to sacrifice Drayton's son is truly horrifying, but utterly compelling
At well over two hours long, The Mist is probably slightly too long, and Jane isn't entirely convincing in the lead role, but these are minor quibbles in what otherwise is a thoroughly enjoyable flick. There's plenty of neat twists and a classic Stephen King-approved alteration to the book's ending, but we won't spoil those here. Our only tip is make sure you've done your food shopping before you see the film, because you won't want to see the inside of a grocery store for a good few days afterwards.