Director Frank Darabont successfully adapts yet another King tale. He had done a great job with King's prison tales The Shawshank Redemption
and The Green Mile
, but is equally good at working on King's thrillers.
***This may contain some spoilers. I think I'm vague enough, but some like to be warned of any potential spoilers within a review. So, here's your warning***
This film is based on a novella, a short novel that is usually less than 150 pages, which helps to keep this film tightly focused on a small band of people trapped in a supermarket as a strange mists surrounds an entire town. Within this mist are incredible monsters that are very effectively produced as part CGI and part puppets. They do look frighteningly real and not as obvious special effects. As with any of these "band of survivors" kind of films there are an odd collection of characters, but I can't label them as stereotypes and that is a welcome change for this genre of film.
All the actors bring a real and human quality to their characters. Thomas Jane, of Deep Blue Sea
, King's Dreamcatcher
, and husband to Patricia Arquette of NBC's Medium
for which he had a role on two episodes, has always been something of an action actor with passing acting abilities, but here the director gets a sincere and highly emotional performance out of him. Andre Braugher as the initially hostile out-of-towner, turned nice guy, turned angry guy, turned determine guy is performed quite well considering the complexity of the actual role. You see the tension with him all the time, but you also see a "nice guy" trying to come out and get along with others who struggles with insecurities. In addition, there is Toby Jones, The Painted Veil
, as a shift manager who is keenly insightful about people in general, but believably so. The supermarket is rounded out with the likes of Frances Sternhagen who graces any film she's in, William Sadler who is great at playing semi-villains, and the ever reliable Jeffrey DuMunn who is no stranger to starring in King films. Lauren Holden as a kind of a stand-in wife/son to Thomas Jane's character and his son while trapped at the supermarket and is good in her role. She may be best known as the macho cop in the horror film Silent Hill
I would be remiss if I didn't note the Oscar-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden's role as the sick, sadistic, Bible thumping, I'm against the world, bitter religious zealot Mrs. Carmody. In the Stephen King world this is the Christian stereotype as it was in his Carrie
novel. King himself admits that he has had a very negative view of Christians prior to his near fatal car accident, and often painted them with the same brush he painted Mrs. Carmody. Even prior to his accident he was beginning to lighten up on his view of Christians and his The Green Mile - Six Volume Box Set
is a good example to that softening of King's views. Having said this, Harden plays this role a bit over-the-top at times, but is still convincing. She does eventually become a caricature of sorts, but she is very compelling to watch and I give her kudos for that kind of performance.
As much as the actors make this a very enjoyable film, much credit for the success of this highly effective horror film is the writing and directing by Danabont who just knows how to handle King's stories. King often fought with his publishers when he had downer endings. Publisher hate it when an author kills off the heroes in a story or evil appears to win, but King, to his credit, never flinched and has had numerous stories in which his main characters die and evil won. I admire that with King and some of his most effective stories have been the ones with downer endings. I'm not saying who dies in this story and who doesn't in this story or if the evil in the mist wins as I don't believe in spoiling someone else's enjoyment of a film, but this adaptation is very faithful to the novella and it does have a strong ending. In fact, the ending is quite shocking, moving, harrowing, and just plain jaw-dropping. I doubt anyone would see it coming which makes it all that much more effective.
This is an outstanding horror film that is worthy of a place in your DVD collection.