The Mist

A refreshing blast.

Stephen King can be downright scary but with a social sensibility?Carrie and 1408 come immediately to mind. So The Mist is a refreshing blast of King at his best, mixing horror with commentary on absurd, complex, and doomed humanity. The film depicts in Maine a fog rolling in with creatures that eat humans alive and generally cause panic and mayhem of the War of the Worlds and Body Snatchers type.

Artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane in good Dennis-Quaid form) is the designated hero for the people trapped in a grocery store while various mist monsters terrorize them. But the oversized squid and spiders are only director Frank Darabont's visual way of exploring the ambivalence of humans in extreme circumstances.

Although he film wrestles with too many major challenges to humans in extremis, thanks goodness it tries and sometimes succeeds with solid results. For instance, Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) pulls a Jim Jones with apocalyptic warning tactics that mobilize most of the people in the market against the small band of good guys. Her rant is mostly about conversing with God, who tells her that they are being punished for their heathen natures, much as Pat Robertson blamed the unwashed for 9/11. The question for the good guys is whether or not to eliminate her, an act antithetical to goodness except in extreme survival mode. The larger issue is the influence of the real right and neocons like Dick Cheney, who have made a life of scaring the bejesus out of the common folk.

King provides other contemporary socio/political topics such as the ambivalent role of the military, at once responsible for the mutants and at another time savior for the suffering people. Throw in the mix the horrors of euthanasia and class conflict, and you have way too much to deal with in a short horror flick. To its credit, the film uses only minimal CGI to create a 50's kind of intellectual horror, where the people inside the grocery store become more like the monsters without as their primal instinct to survive kicks in.

I'm going to Maine next week; I think I'll just sit out the usual fog during unusually balmy fall days. Hey, maybe this overripe allegory is also about global warming!