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Monday, October 24, 2011

Movies to Scare The Sh!t Out of You: THE MIST, Bastard Son of THE FOG



I have to learn that just because a few Stephen King movies flop doesn’t mean it’s an excuse not to watch every god damn last one of them. I wrote a piece about the movie Thinner not too long ago and was surprised at just how much I enjoyed it. Everything about that movie looked bad, but I was sick and it was On Demand so I figured it was time to give it a shot. Through the credits I kept thinking that it was going to be an absurd waste of time. The same way Are You Scared? was a waste of time that very day. Well I’m a convert. Thinner was an entertaining film with some impressive special effects. It’s a King story that wasn’t altogether butchered even though quite a few forgivable liberties were taken. It’s nice to be proven wrong. I guess when Sometimes They Come Back and Sleepwalkers came on the screen as well as the countless eight hour miniseries I got just a wee bit turned off. I now have an overabundance of Stephen King adaptations, for better or worse, that I have never watched and have the pleasure of enjoying. I’ve seen the 80’s classics, but I’m ready now. Especially after I see tonight’s entry into movies that just scare the ever lovin’ shit outta me, The Mist.



From what I understand, I’m the last horror fan on Earth to have seen this movie. It had been hyped again and again. People told me to watch it. People I trust. Somehow I ended up ignoring it and thinking that it was just another poor example of a King story on film. I have seen the error of my ways. Break out your fog lamps.

Synopsis:

“A freak storm unleashes a species of blood-thirsty creatures on a small town, where a small band of citizens hole-up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.”



Can you blame me for not wanting to see this movie with a description like this? This is all I’d read about day in and day out. Now you know I’m not big on summarizing film plots but when you read something like the aforementioned, IMDB entry you have to wonder why the author missed the boat. We all like creatures, but there’s a bigger picture here.



TERROR-OPSIS:

When a violent storm pummels a Maine town into disaster mode, the residents go into recovery mode only to find that the real threat is about to begin. Shortly thereafter a thick fog sets in, trapping a group of residents in a grocery store. What they will soon discover are the strange insect-like creatures of gigantic proportions that have appeared out of nowhere.



These aren’t the insects of A Bug’s Life. These are insects from another dimension; large and fierce. Each one seems to be strengthened or empowered versions of insects we have in our own world. When they begin to attack, our trapped friends don’t have a can of RAID or a bug bomb large enough to handle this infestation. What you have got to love about this picture is the variety of baddies. Tentacles, Spiders, Flying insects and my personal favorite, giant praying mantis. Mantises scare the hell out of me even on a small scale. To understand better why this movie gets under my skin let’s go back to my childhood to discuss some bug related incidents. Maybe you have your own you’d like to share below? We’ll go through each one by bug type.

BEES:

When I was a child no more than four, I remember seeing this cute flying thing that looked furry. I know that I had seen and held wooly bear caterpillars. How different could this be? Well the damn thing stung me when I tried to pick it up which pretty much started my phobia of bees. It’s getting better every year. I remember going to Boy Scout camp and having three separate bee attacks perpetrated on my back and neck. This was damn near traumatizing. I’m still not sure how I made it out of that day or what happened for the rest of the trip. I was too put off after having been stung. Now there aren’t really bees in this film, but they flying insects inspire the same level of intense fear.

SPIDERS:

I know I know… everyone’s afraid of spiders. I’ve had too many encounters with these 8 legged fuckers than I care to remember. One incident stands out from early childhood. I was playing with wood block in the basement of our house. I looked up at the concrete wall and there stood a spider the size of adult males hand. Looking back, it was probably a large wolf spider. I don’t know if anyone killed it or whether it just disappeared into the inch gap surrounding the basement, but the image has stuck with me. Right next to that old refrigerator. It ruined basements for me. I could barely play down there and definitely not by myself. Years later I was running through a summer camp and nearly ran into similarly sized arachnid only this one was bright yellow and black. I watched it devour a grasshopper. I can’t believe I didn’t end up with that damn thing on my face.

PRAYING MANTIS:

This is the most innocent of all. Again, I’m a little boy and I see this green thing crawling over the flower in our backyard. I assume it is a grasshopper although I can’t remember having picked up a grasshopper either. When I picked it up to hold it I feel an intense shooting pain. It is, in fact, a praying mantis that has just pierced my skin with one of its point arms. I threw dropped it and ran. I respect the mantis now. I fear the mantis.



While those may seem like fairly normal experiences they pretty much put me off the creepy crawlies. It’s one of the reasons that The Mist works on me. It plays on the greatest fears of my childhood no matter how rationalized. I’m not certain that the effects are the reason for my terror and sickness at this film. I think it has to do more with the Mist’s human element and how better than to tell a human story than Frank Darabont.



David Drayton and family remind me a lot of my small family. Ordinary. Not much too us. Absolutely in love with one another. I don’t know that I could have appreciated this film in the same way without my family, but I also think that it startled me more because I could feel Drayton’s anxiety the entire time. The Mist is a giant monster/bug picture to be certain, but it isn’t. It’s a family story. A story of relationships and with an overlay of battles within society and the argument for and against religion It takes on and blends quite a few arguments into one and at the fulcrum one man and his family. If you take out the bugs. If you take out the mist. If you take out the storm. You are left with people struggling with the same arguments they have daily. The same struggles for power exist on your cable news program every morning. So maybe that’s why I love the Mist. Maybe it scares me because it feels like my life only amplified and in a bug jar.



I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Religious zealots scare me more than monsters. Maybe not more than spiders but at least you can put a silver bullet in a werewolf. Zealots don’t die… neither do their ideas. Maybe that’s why I’m terrified of this picture. Having been subject to several bouts of religiously based discrimination throughout my life both for having a spiritual belief (even if subdued) and for taking great pleasure in subjects that zealots find sinful, I’m pretty much a walking persecution complex. So maybe that’s why I’m so damn frightened of this film. The religious right gets to have their day in the sun… well, in the mist. Maybe that’s why I’m fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials. Either way, there is an anger I have felt while watching this picture that occurs seldom and actually inspires a very real physical sense of nausea.



When the Mist was over I went upstairs and hugged my family. I laid down and watched cartoons and goofed off and tried to appreciate every minute I was with them. I even got a little teary eyed. I couldn’t bear to tell my wife what I just watched because it would have surely had me balling like a kid. The Mist tugs on all the right heart strings. It sticks with you all the way to the almost predictable end, through one of the greatest scores in recent memory. Even thinking about it now makes me want to protect my home a little better. Prepare for inclement weather. Maybe buy some bug spray.

-Dr. Terror.

3 comments:

  1. One of my favorite King novellas and the film does it justice, nice write up!!

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  2. Thanks Daniel... I wish we could get a few more short story and novella adaptions of this caliber. Lawnmower Man (done properly).

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  3. I waited over 20 years for "The Mist" to be made into a movie, having first read it about 1986. Definitely one of my favorite King stories, one of my favorites stories EVER. But... the movie didn't do it for me. Probably b/c I had so interiorized the story; it was so *personal* to me! Back in my high school days I used to stare out classroom windows and daydream a solid wall of mist floating across the football field or the parking lot outside... King's ending is much better, and the only one that truly makes any sense. I feel Darabont's ending was thought up only to surprise people who'd read the story. Yes, it's shocking, but I just can't believe those... things... could have been dispatched so easily. Oh well.

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