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.