Review

Review

The Mist (2007) DVD

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10

Some movies seem tailor-made for a second viewing, but with the arrival of a very special 2-disc edition, Frank Darabont's The Mist practically demands one. I'll get to the technical specs, the extra goodies, and (yes!) the very cool alternate version of the film in just a minute, but first let's pick through my original review for the movie and see if I make any good points.

Reviewed by Scott Weinberg

A large portion of making a successful monster movie lies right there in the description: Make a good monster, and you're close to making a good monster movie. Suffice to say that Frank Darabont's The Mist has numerous good monsters ... and yet they're not even the creepiest thing to be found in this very fine Hollywood horror film. It's the human animal, of course, that's always a bit more unpredictable -- no matter how exotic, horrific, and carnivorous your monsters are. And that's what makes The Mist so damn scary.

Thomas Jane plays our everyman sorta-hero. He's picking up a few things at the supermarket before heading back home to deal with some nasty storm damage. Only while he's standing in line with his little boy ... a local man, bloodied and bewildered, comes tearing into the market and yelling about "things in the mist!" And wouldn't you know it? The store is soon covered in a sheet of mysterious mist. And there are things out there.

A few unlucky folks get picked off in exceedingly nasty fashion, and that's when the real trouble begins. Nope, not the plainly dangerous and overtly threatening monsters outside, but that "crazy" lady from down the road? She's become a real "end of days"-style bible-thumper, and the longer the situation goes on, the more suggestible the sheep seem to get. So while most horror movies would be content with "characters try to stay alive while holed up in a store," The Mist ups the ante by saying "it might be better to brave the ravenous mystery monsters than to stick around for the inevitable collapse of society." Plus the monsters keep making things worse by scaring (and eating) the hell out of everyone.

It's pretty clear that writer / director Frank Darabont is having a ball with this material. Although best known for adapting two of the more 'austere' Stephen King movies (The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile), Darabont cut his teeth writing scripts like The Blob, The Fly 2, and Nightmare on Elm Street 3 -- so clearly we're talking about an "A-list" director who has some real affection and respect for the horror genre. For his third adaptation of a King story, Darabont just leans back and tosses a genre fastball right down the middle of the plate. Even at a solid two hours, The Mist slides by with an almost effortless gait; even the smaller dialog scenes serve to amp up the 'big picture' tension just a little.

Stuffed with familiar faces, The Mist is a veritable who's who of solid character actors. Leading man Thomas Jane does his typically fine job, and he's backed by at least a half-dozen excellent supporting performances. Marcia Gay Harden, as the zealot-turned-prophet, delivers some great work, especially considering how easily this character could have become a goofy caricature. Special mention to veteran players like Bill Sadler, Jeffrey DeMunn, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, and Frances Sternhagen for making the 'background' characters seem both realistic and worthy of some emotional investment. And while she's certainly no stranger to the horror fans, it's about time that Laurie Holden got some more attention. She's the essential heart of what turns out to be a pretty bleak flick.

Ultimately, much ink (and conversation) will be spilled over the movie's affection for ambiguity and its commitment to dark-hearted irony. Specifically, the finale (which is markedly different than what's found in the source material) is both bleak and oddly hopeful, and it adds a fascinating (if slightly maddening) capper to a big, meaty monster movie that's as entertaining for its Lovecraftian beasties as it is for its more "intellectual" aspirations. Darabont clearly feels no shame in delivering a white-knuckle monster movie, but he's smart enough to do so in a crafty, creepy, and literate fashion. Basically, it's the best monster movie since The Host, and the finest American example in I don't know how long.

---Hey, that's actually a pretty good review. (I don't write many, so let me enjoy it!) Suffice to say that The Mist most definitely holds up to repeat viewings (it seems more like a dark adventure movie than a full-bore horror flick the second time around!), and in some ways the re-view is even better! (More on that when I get to disc 2.) The film itself is presented in a very clean anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) format, with audio delivered in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English or French). Subtitles are available in English and Spanish. And now the good stuff!

First off, I don't think there's a better "audio commentator" out there than Frank Darabont. I've enjoyed his Shawshank and Green Mile chat-tracks immensely, and his Mist chatter is definitely not a disappointment. As in his earlier commentaries, Darabont speaks like an exceedingly intelligent and creative man -- but even better than that is his instantly identifiable "geekiness." This is a guy who loves movies, loves talking about movies, and has no trouble explaining his process in colorful, informative fashion. (Go Frank!) There's a bit more (optional) commentating to be found on the eight deleted / extended scenes, all of which seem to have been removed for plain old pacing issues. (But they're still cool to see.) Then we get a great little 7.5-minute featurette about legendary movie poster artist Drew Struzan, which is a really cool addition for the movie nerds, and three behind-the-scenes "webisodes" that run about ten minutes combined. Rounding out the disc are three (!) theatrical trailers for The Mist.

That's what you'll get if you opt for the single-disc edition of The Mist. But for only a few measly dollars more...

When Darkness Came: The Making of The Mist (37m) -- Darabont details his history with the Stephen King story, and then we go through casting, shooting, FX, cinematography, the controversial ending, and all sorts of topics in between. Frank Darabont gets most of the face-time, but there's also lots of interview segments with the cast, the crew, and (yes!) Stephen King himself.

Taming the Beast: Shooting Scene 35 (12m) -- A very intensive little featurette about one hell of a difficult sequence.

Monsters Among Us: A Look at the Creature FX (13m) -- Frank Darabont, Greg Nicotero, and Bernie Wrightson talk about the conceptual stage of the beasties and the creation of the (practical) FX. Very cool stuff.

The Horror of It All: The Visual FX of The Mist (16m) -- And since the "practical" guys got their own spotlight, why not a nice satisfying peek at the flick's computer-generated wizardry? Why not indeed.

Last but certainly not least! It begins with a 3-minute introduction from Mr. Darabont ... the black & white version of The Mist! The director says that he actually prefers this version ... and I think I do too! This isn't just a movie with the color "bleached" out, but a new (visual) experience in every way. It takes a little getting used to (especially in the film's earlier, talkier scenes), but once the creatures start swarming, the b&w approach provides a "rainy day UHF matinee" vibe that's nostalgic and fun. Call it old-fashioned or call it a gimmick, but I say it really works with this particular movie. (Just to be clear: The b&w is the exact same cut as the theatrical version; only the visual palette has been altered.)

So there you go: A great horror movie that didn't do much at the box office, but (I think) is almost guaranteed to live a very long shelf-life as a horror fan's favorite. With tons of great extras (and a wonderfully nifty alternate version), this DVD is a no-brainer. If I were extra-greedy I'd have asked for a second commentary on the black & white version, but why be a pest? This DVD is aces across the board.

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