As much as I'm annoyed by some of Stephen King's bibliography I'll be the first to admit that he has written a lot of memorable books. But my favourite King creation, by far, was "The Mist," a novella that I first read as a teenager in his "Skeleton Crew" collection.
The story continues to disturb me every time I read it. The idea of the mist alone is an innovative one, but on top of that the monsters are terrifying, the characters perfectly crafted, and the claustrophobic, slow burn setting is ideal. Most importantly, though, the actual reason for the mist phenomenon -- and the ending of the story as well -- was tantalizingly vague and open-ended. When you're finished reading the story you're left with a lot of wonderfully meaty possibilities that you can mull over all on your own. With the lights on.
People have continually promised to make a movie out of the story. The problem has always been: how should it end? I've told myself that no film studio -- at least not one with the budget to even ATTEMPT "The Mist" -- would ever allow the story's open-ended finale to stand...a Hollywood producer would HAVE to insist on a resolution, and that resolution no doubt would be super-happy and spoil everything. Better the movie never be made.
So I was worried about watching the Frank Darabont adaptation. And while I'm ultimately unhappy about the ending they finally decided upon, it's not for the reasons I'd assumed...and the rest of the movie is so wonderful as to render the actual ending almost unnecessary.
I've already said that the Stephen King monsters were unique and horrifying, but the film manages to make them even MORE bizarre. The scenes of graphic and grotesque body horror have been actually RAMPED UP in the film; maybe this disturbed me more than usual because I'd assumed the film would PLAY DOWN that sort of thing. I was very, very wrong.
What really makes the movie exceptional, however, is the pacing. The action sequences are slick and shocking, but the director knows when to pull back and just let everybody simmer once in a while, always with a barely audible score and understated performances. The Mrs. Carmody plot was a bit heavy-handed I think -- though it isn't hard to see why an American director under the Bush administration might feel particularly driven to bring such scenes to the forefront -- but even when the Carmody scenes started to drag, the quirky script and convincing performances kept me grounded.
The inclusion of Dead Can Dance's "The Host of Seraphim" -- no song is more beautiful or more heart-wrenching -- was an added bonus, though it must be one of the most overused soundtrack songs ever.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but: maybe the movie adaptation is actually BETTER than the book. I eat crow publically. If you love horror movies and you haven't seen it yet, you really really should.
Incidentally, I just realized that Darabont wrote the screenplay for the remake of "The Blob," another quirky script which went slightly "over the edge" in terms of gruesome body horror.