FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE...beware yon spoilers!

Nov 9, 2008

should i stay or should i go?

Long after everyone has talked about it and, perhaps, even forgotten its existence, lo: I have seen The Mist.

I didn't watch it intending to talk about it, but here I am anyway, flapping my cyber-gums.

I found The Mist (2007) far more engaging than I'd anticipated; despite its numerous "problems", I was into it all the way- in other words, I was entertained. An odd notion, that, to be simply entertained by a film. Because I end up writing about a majority of the movies I watch (especially horror), sometimes it seems as though I'm watching them through a filter. I'm taking notes, I'm thinking about shot composition, I'm writing jokes in my head...in other words, at times I'm more consumed with the review I'm going to write the next day than I am with the movie I'm spending my time with. Not cool.

After a while, it sucks the joy out of the whole shebang. I end up not watching certain films because I know I'll want to write about them but I don't feel like writing about them right then. It's not that talking about movies (ie, Final Girl) is a chore...it's that sometimes I want to watch something without having to have a notebook in front of me; my brain then tells me that that's a wasted post opportunity and so I either put the DVD back on the shelf or I watch through that filter. Again, not cool.

I think this is part of the reason why I disappear for a week or two, sometimes. The last thing I want is for watching horror movies to feel like work. I need to step away from it all from time to time in order to fan the flames.

As I said, I popped in The Mist last night without any intentions beyond simply watching a damn movie. I didn't write anything down. I wasn't thinking critically- or, at least, critically in any formal sense. I wasn't trying to pre-articulate my thoughts; I wasn't thinking about jokes; I wasn't noting the times of great screenshots. I tuned in strictly as an audience member (something I do far too infrequently), I let the film wash over me, and I was entertained.

So why am I posting this? Well, it turned out that I wanted to talk about The Mist, even if I don't want to write up some big fat review.

Oddly enough, virtually everything I want to say about it seems to come off as a negative. The characters, particularly, are little more than your typical stock, one-note jobs. With the exception of William Sadler's Jim, everyone acts pretty much how we'd expect him or her to act. No one has an "arc", no one changes his or her mind about anything, and I'll be damned if there's any actual conversation in the film. Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), in particular, is all but a caricature and I found her flock-gathering skills to be dubious at best, but in the end she made a posse right quick.

The Mist follows the usual beats that most horror movie fans- particularly zombie fans- will be overly familiar with. There's the shocking first incident. There's the person who underestimates the threat, wanders into the thick of it, and ends up dead. There's the "Oh, fuck!" moment when the survivors' fortress is broken; it surprised me, however, when this event didn't send the film speeding towards its end. There's the run for supplies that turns into a clusterfuck. There's the battle between the goers and the stayers. It's Night of the Living Dead with CGI monsters.

I'm so glad The Mist got its shittiest effects out of the way first- Mainefolks' first encounter with the enemy- those tentacles- looked pretty bad. From there on out it got better and better, and I really dug the way there was always something more out there- something deadlier, something badder, something much, much bigger. While I like the giant monster subgenre, it's never really thrilled me the way it probably should. When that impossible figure strolls by near the film's end, however- such a wonderful and horrifying casual moment- my mouth fell open. It's a moment I wish I'd seen first on the big screen.

And how 'bout that ending, huh? I gotta say, it really pissed me off- not so much because it's such a downer, such a "D'oh!" moment of epic proportions- but because it just didn't fit. It's too neat, too pat, and too damn illogical. To make it work, I think writer/director Frank Darabont needed another half hour in a film that's perhaps already overlong (it is long, but I never found myself checking my watch or disengaging). The ending raises more questions than it answers, and it feels as added for shock value as the completely improbable ending to Pieces (which I'll stop being obsessed with one of these days). How did the military get a handle on this thing so quickly? How long was our plucky band of survivors driving before they ran out of gas? Why did they give up so damn soon once they did? It happened too quickly. Too quickly- especially when, up until that point, they'd all risked their lives so often for a chance at survival. It felt vastly unfair, but not in the way that it should have.

Despite all this, I really had a good time watching The Mist. Maybe I should put the notebook away more often...sometimes, I guess, ignorance is bliss.

21 comments:

Stacia said...

I didn't read the review completely, because "The Mist" is a movie I'd eventually like to see and I didn't want to be entirely spoiled. Your post makes me want to see it even more. I'll have to trundle off to Netflix after this.

As to watching films for blogging, I completely agree. I avoid watching movies because I want to "save" it for the blog, and it just ultimately makes me stop watching movies altogether.

anytime_now said...

"The mist", was, like you said, entertaining. But in the least sense of the word (in my opinion). Meaning to say, that I wouldn't have paid $14 + a box of popcorn to view it in the cinemas (actually, I don't think it even hit the screens here..oooh). I didn't know whether to cry or laugh when the film ended the way it did.. haha. (:

Oh, being the Guru of all things horror. I'm sure you've heard of the recently released (Aussie?) film: "Dying Breed". Leigh Whannel stars in it.. Am I right to assume that it's going to be pretty decent? :D. Anyways, the poster's uber cool + clever!

Take care (:

PIPER said...

Stacie,

Good points up front. I find myself tweaking my ideas about a film so it fits into a blog idea. That ain't right.

I did not care for The Mist, although I enjoyed the short story.

I've heard that watching it in Black and White is a different experience entirely. Did you watch it in B&W?

The ending felt like Darabont was trying to shake his sweet image.

Pierce said...

The exact words I gave to a friend when he asked abut The Mist were "99.999% of a really fun movie followed by about a minute of 'what the fucK?' at the end"

And yeah those bad tentacles at the beginning did worry me at the beginning, but then not much later there was a giant spider that almost made me leave the room... So that evened out I suppose.

AE said...

I think I would have almost loved this movie if it hadn't been for the ending. For that to work, things should've been made a lot more dire, and the mood throughout should've been darker. It felt to me like an alternate ending that made everyone go "Ha! Wouldn't it be crazy if we actually used this?" and then at the last minute they did. Not organic. It made me feel like I was watching a long, smartass joke instead of a movie, and it put me right off.

Wes Fierce said...

I almost lost all of my credibility when I said I didn't like the Mist, lol. Besides the fact that the survival horror plot has been infinitely recycled, the characters broken logic was the biggest turn off for me. (I'll eventually post the review for the placemarker on my site, haha.)

I've made it a point to only study films that I have already seen so that I can experience the story the way the filmmakers intended, the first time. That way I can feel what works and what doesn't before I try to dissect it. That also gives me time to reflect on my initial reaction so I can form a balanced opinion. Though, I still try to stay as objective as possible.

Margarita said...

I felt the same way about the ending, when it happened I was so pissed! They went through ALL of that bullshit, fighting tooth and nail to survive, only to give up at the first sign of some new impossible trouble? Like they hadn't already been going through it throughout the entire movie? If it was me I would have just waited until the last possible second, say if one of those uglies decided to come make a feast out of that beat up little jeep. Why jump the gun like that? So to speak. But I did love the movie, I found it thoroughly enjoyable and I've loved that Steven King short story for a long time.

Anonymous said...

I can only agree with the other posters - the ending is terrible and ruined the movie for me.

Btw.: Unfortunately Dying Breed is terrible too - just another DTV backwoods slasher movie and not even a particularly good one.

Jason M said...

It seems The Mist is one of those movies that polarizes fans to loving it or hating it without many people in the middle.

Personally, I loved it. If it reopened today I'd go see it again. It's a movie that plays very well on a big screen. (IMAX?)

The ending is a big smack in the face. Some people seem to take it better than others.

Best of all, it's not based on "found" footage.

immensesombrero said...

I liked The Mist, although you're right on all points.

Have you read the short story? The ending is completely different, and more open-ended. And, it involves a HoJo's.

I've become less frequent with my blogging for the same reasons you have. That, and sometimes, I just don't feel like watching horror movies for awhile.

Leetal said...

There is no reason to ever stop talking about Pieces.

Anonymous said...

I have to be in the minority here. I thought the ending was great. It was one of those moments when things do not end with "It's over, and it's time to rebuild."

It was a WTF moment that left you stunned as you walked out of the theater. When a movie does that to me, I have to give it props.

Corey said...

all this time later, i still can't decide whether i loved or hated the ending... although i'm fairly sure it's one or the other.

what i am certain of is that watching the film in b&w is a far better experience. it's all somehow more cinematic... and those tentacles are far creepier desaturated.

Lisa Bee said...

I agree. I found The Mist far more entertaining than I had expected and I also wished I had seen it on a big screen. And your take on the ending is the best I've seen.

I must admit though, that I didn't mind the end as much as other people. I was fine with it, and wasn't bothered by the nihilism or the rush to just be done with it all, right up until the final shot. That seemed to be a cruel joke, just for the sake of a joke and caused me to question everything that led up to it.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the ending isn't that it is nihilistic or unhappy, it's just so poorly conceived and badly done, although I must admit that the implications bothered me too - essentially the ending suggests that the crazy lady was right all along and it was all about God expecting a sacrifice. Seen from that perspective, the ending makes slightly more sense, but the entire preceeding film gets considerably worse.

Arbogast said...

I must admit that the implications bothered me too - essentially the ending suggests that the crazy lady was right all along

Aren't crazy people usually right. I'm thinking principally of the case of Crazy Ralph v. Camp Crystal Lake.

"You're all doooomed!"

Anonymous said...

To me, the ending had nothing to do with justifying the crazy lady's..er..craziness. The ending was rushed, but it wasn't that outlandish....large, hulking creatures not withstanding.

Kensington said...

One year later I no longer think the end is rushed. Once you've decided that your situation is hopeless, why prolong the agony, especially after they saw the giant impossible nightmare thingee?

Maybe they "rushed" so that they wouldn't lose their nerve. It can't be easy to kill your little boy or to face being killed yourself.

It's mean, and it's awful, but it's closer in spirit to true "horror" than a lot of what passes in the genre nowadays. I give it a lot of credit, even though I didn't think it was a particularly good film at the time.

The Igloo Keeper... said...

Anyone with short-attention span caused by this MTV/soundbite age should check out my review of The Mist. It's 3 words long:

www.igloooftheuncanny.blogspot.com

Xtian said...

I love The Mist, such a great picture, mostly because it's a short story from Stephen King, glad to know you liked this bad-body!

Jeff R said...

To all reading I'ld just like to apologise for "Dying Breed" though since you lot gave us those "Twilight" movies I don't see why I should.

Go watch "Lake Mungo" instead Kids for your Down Under horror fix.

Ending of "The Mist", seemed out of place and happened way to fast to be believable in any shape or form.