The Mist (also known as Stephen King's The Mist) is a 2007 American science-fiction horror film based on the 1980 book The Mist by Stephen King. The film was written and directed by Frank Darabont. Darabont had been interested in adapting The Mist for the big screen since the 1980s. The film features an ensemble cast including Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Samuel Witwer, Toby Jones, and future The Walking Dead actors Jeffrey DeMunn, Juan Gabriel Pareja, Laurie Holden, and Melissa McBride.
Filming for The Mist began in Shreveport, Louisiana, in February 2007. The film was commercially released in the United States and Canada on November 21, 2007; it performed well at the box office and received generally positive reviews. Darabont has since revealed that he had "always had it in mind to shoot The Mist in black and white", a decision inspired by such iconic films as Night of the Living Dead (1968) and the "pre-color" work of Ray Harryhausen. While the film's cinematic release was in color, the director has described the black and white print (released on Blu-ray in 2008) as his "preferred version."
The director revised the ending of the film to be darker than the novella's ending, a change to which King was amenable. Darabont also sought unique creature designs to differentiate them from his creatures in past films.
Although a monster movie, the central theme explores what ordinary people will be driven to do under extraordinary circumstances. The plot revolves around members of the small town of Bridgton, Maine who, after a severe thunderstorm causes the power to go out the night before, meet in a supermarket to pick up supplies. While they struggle to survive an unnatural mist which envelops the town and conceals vicious, Lovecraftian monsters, extreme tensions rise among the survivors.
Following a violent thunderstorm, David Drayton leaves his wife Stephanie at home while he ventures into town with his eight-year-old son Billy and their neighbor, Brent Norton, to buy supplies for repairs. Arriving at a grocery store, they and the other patrons notice unusual police and military activity. Three soldiers enter the store and an MP warns them to depart. Moments later, a panicked and injured man, Dan Miller, runs into the store, warning of danger. Soon after, a thick mist envelops the store, accompanied by earthquake-like tremors, setting off the town's fire siren.
A deeply pious woman, Mrs. Carmody, believes that this is the beginning of Armageddon. A shaken woman (Melissa McBride), against objections from the others, leaves the store to go home to her children. While investigating the store's generator, bag-boy Norm volunteers to go outside, but is snatched and pulled into the mist by the tentacle of an unseen monster. At first, everyone is skeptical of the tale, but store manager Bud Brown and a local biker are convinced when they see a severed tentacle in the generator room. Realizing the store front is plate glass, the people trapped in the store block the windows with dog food bags, tape and freezers.
Refusing to listen to David, Norton heads outside with a small group to seek help, with the biker following suit with rope tied around his waist. However, the group disappears and the survivors only bring back the severed waist of the biker. That night, enormous flying insects with scorpion-like tails tipped with venomous stingers land on and attach themselves to the windows. Moments later, pterodactyl-like animals preying on said insects ram their beaks into the glass, eventually breaking through the windows and allowing the creatures to enter the supermarket. They begin to attack the terrified people inside and kill Sally, a cashier, and another man, Tom, while one man, Joe, is severely burned and later dies. One of the insects lands on Mrs. Carmody, but doesn't sting her because she keeps still during her prayer. As a result, she starts preaching even more and quickly gains followers among the distraught survivors.
In order to retrieve medical supplies and look for more survivors, David, Dan, Private Jessup, Joe's brother Bobby, elderly-yet-tough schoolteacher Irene, mechanic Jim, assistant manager Ollie Weeks and patron Mike Hatlen. venture out to the neighboring pharmacy, which unbeknownst to them has been transformed into a spider nest. Among the mass of bodies is the MP, who quickly dies when he falls from his webs and spiders burst out of his back. Mike and Bobby are killed by the spiders, causing most of the people in the market to side with Mrs. Carmody. Two of the soldiers, Donaldson and Morales, commit suicide shortly afterwards, and, after some pressing from David, Jessup reveals that the local military base was filled with rumors about the Arrowhead Project, the government's attempt to look into other dimensions, and that the scientists responsible for the experiment may have inadvertently opened a doorway into a dimension containing the creatures that are now invading the town. An angry mob then ensues, led by Mrs. Carmody, who orders her followers to blame him. As a result, he is stabbed and ejected from the store as a human sacrifice, quickly falling prey to a large praying mantis-like creature.
The following morning, David and his group, consisting of Billy, schoolteacher Amanda, Ollie, Irene, Dan, patron Ambrose, mechanic Myron, and Bud, secretly gather supplies to flee, but Mrs. Carmody stops them, having now turned the entire store against them. After stealing the supplies, she demands that Billy and Amanda be the next sacrifice, only for Ollie to shoot and kill her with Amanda's gun as chaos erupts. After Ollie threatens to open fire again, Mrs. Carmody's horrified followers, now returning to their senses, reluctantly stand down and allow David's group to leave. As the group makes their way to David's car, Ollie is torn in half by the praying mantis-like creature, Myron and Ambrose are attacked and killed by the giant spiders, and Bud runs back to the market and is allowed to reenter. Only David, Billy, Dan, Amanda, and Irene make it to the car and leave as the remaining survivors in the store watch them drive off, their eventual fates ambiguous.
Driving through the mist, David finds his house destroyed and Stephanie dead, seemingly another victim of the giant spiders. Devastated, he drives the group south, passing destroyed vehicles and seeing a gigantic six-legged, tentacled beast. When they run out of gas hours later, the group decides there is no point in going on and David shoots the others (with their consent, except for his son who is not old enough to understand) rather than have them endure horrifying deaths, but is left with no bullet to use on himself. He leaves the car and waits to be killed, but the mist suddenly recedes, revealing that the U.S. Army has arrived, managed to close the portal, and are in the process of exterminating the creatures and restoring order. David also sees that they have rescued survivors, among them the woman who left the store at the phenomenon's onset, completely unscathed and having rescued her two children. David realizes that his group was only moments away from being rescued the entire time and that their deaths were premature and in vain, and drops to his knees screaming.
Director Frank Darabont first read Stephen King's 1980 novella The Mist in the Dark Forces anthology, and originally expressed interest in directing a film adaptation for his directing debut. He instead filmed The Shawshank Redemption, also based on another King novella. In October 1994, after completing The Shawshank Redemption, Darabont reiterated his interest in filming The Mist. Darabont did not immediately follow through, instead directing the 1999 film adaptation of Stephen King's The Green Mile. Darabont eventually set up a first look deal for The Mist with Paramount Pictures, having been entrusted feature film rights by Stephen King. By December 2004, Darabont said that he had begun writing an adapted screenplay for The Mist, and by October 2006, the project moved from Paramount to Dimension Films, with Darabont attached to direct and actor Thomas Jane in negotiations to join the cast.
|"The story is less about the monsters outside than about the monsters inside, the people you're stuck with, your friends and neighbors breaking under the strain."|
|— Darabont on The Mist|
Director Darabont chose to film The Mist after filming the "straighter dramas" The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile because he "wanted to make a very direct, muscular kind of film". Darabont conceived of a new ending in translating the novella for the big screen. Author King praised Darabont's new ending, describing it as one that would be unsettling for studios. King said, "The ending is such a jolt—wham! It's frightening. But people who go to see a horror movie don't necessarily want to be sent out with a Pollyanna ending."
Darabont described The Mist as quaint in its elements of monsters and fear of the unknown compared to the contemporary popularity of films with torture porn. The director saw The Mist as a throwback to Paddy Chayefsky and William Shakespeare, explaining, "It's people at each other." He highlighted the element of fear in the film in how it compelled people to behave differently. Darabont said, "How primitive do people get? It's Lord of the Flies that happens to have some cool monsters in it." He also drew parallels to The Twilight Zone episode "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" and the 1944 film Lifeboat.
In the novella, the character David Drayton—who is married—has a sexual encounter with Amanda Dumfries, who is also married. Darabont did not want to attempt conveying on screen the protagonist being involved in an extramarital affair. The characters in the film, portrayed by Thomas Jane and Laurie Holden respectively, instead share a more emotional relationship. Jane explained, "We kind of form a little family, sort of surrogate family where my son and I'm a father and she becomes the mother to the son. We become a little unit as we're trying to get through this nightmare together." Holden compared the nightmare to what refugees experienced at the Louisiana Superdome during Hurricane Katrina.
While the origin of the mist in the film is never explained in great detail, Frank Darabont did write an opening scene in a draft dated 5 August 2005, in which the thunderstorm causes a malfunction at the Arrowhead Project's lab that allows the portal to another dimension to stay open too long. The scene was never filmed.
In December 2006, Jane finalized negotiations with the studio to join the cast. In January 2007, actors Andre Braugher and Laurie Holden joined Jane for the cast of The Mist. Production began the following February at StageWorks of Louisiana, a sound stage and film production facility in Shreveport, Louisiana. Marcia Gay Harden and Toby Jones joined the cast later in the month.
William Sadler, Jeffrey DeMunn, and Brian Libby, each of whom appeared in Darabont's previous Stephen King adaptations The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, were cast in supporting roles. Sadler had previously played Jane's role, David Drayton, in a 1986 audiobook version of The Mist. Darabont wanted to cast King in the supporting role that eventually went to Brian Libby, an offer that King turned down because he did not want to travel to film the part.
Darabont sought to pursue "a more fluid, ragged documentary kind of direction" with The Mist, so he contacted the camera crew from the TV series The Shield, after having directed one episode, to use their style in the film. Darabont attempted to film The Mist digitally but found that it "wound up looking too beautiful". The director chose to film with 400 ASA from Fujifilm, which gave footage a grainy effect.
In the opening shot, David is drawing in his room. The drawing is based on Stephen King's Dark Tower series, and was painted by film poster designer Drew Struzan. Darabont also included re-productions of Struzan's posters and illustrations for The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, John Carpenter's The Thing, and Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. Struzan would go on to produce a poster for The Mist, but this image was not used in the film's marketing campaign.
Darabont collaborated with the production designer to create a mix of eras to avoid appearing as a period piece but also not looking so contemporary. Cell phones were used by characters in The Mist, but the military police in the film did not dress in modern attire. While an MP also drove an old Jeep instead of a Humvee, other cars seen in the film are modern models. The city police cars in the beginning of the film are a 1987 Chevrolet Caprice and a 1988 Ford LTD Crown Victoria, cars that were standard police vehicles in the late 1980s but have not been used in force since the late 1990s.
Over a hundred extras from Shreveport, Louisiana were included in The Mist. Unlike conventional application of extras in the background of a film, sixty of the hundred extras were interwoven with the film's ensemble cast. Additional elements giving the film a local flavor include the prominence of local Louisiana brands such as Zapp's potato chips. Exterior shots of the house at the beginning were in Shreveport. Exterior shots of the supermarket were in Vivian, Louisiana. Also, if looked closely at, the shields on the side of the passing firetrucks early in the film identify them as part of the Caddo Parish fire department. This is possibly a mistake as the film is allegedly set in Maine.
Darabont chose to use music to minimal effect in The Mist in order to capture the "heavier feel" of the darker ending he had written to replace the one from the novella. The director explained, "Sometimes movie music feels false. I've always felt that silent can be scarier than loud, a whisper more frightening than a bang, and we wanted to create a balance. We kept music to a minimum to keep that vérité, documentary feel." Darabont chose to overlay the song "The Host of Seraphim" by the band Dead Can Dance, a spiritual piece characterized by wailing and chanting. As a fan of Dead Can Dance, Darabont thought that the song played "as a requiem mass for the human race." The original score was composed by Academy Award-nominated composer Mark Isham.
Darabont hired artists Jordu Schell and Bernie Wrightson to assist in designing the creatures for the film. Greg Nicotero worked on the film's creature design and make-up effects, while Everett Burrell served as the visual effects supervisor. Nicotero initially sketched out ideas for creature design when Darabont originally expressed interest in filming The Mist in the 1980s. When the project was greenlit, Nicotero, Burrell, and Darabont collaborated about the creature design at round-table meetings at CaféFX. The studio for visual effects had been recommended to Darabont by Guillermo del Toro after Darabont asked the director who created the visual effects for Pan's Labyrinth.
Due to the creatures' being described in only a few sentences in the novella, Darabont sought to conceive of new designs. The challenge was creating designs that felt unique. Nicotero, who was versed in film history and genre history, reviewed past creature designs to avoid having similar designs. When the designs were completed, Nicotero and Burrell educated the cast on the appearance of the creatures by showing puppets and the function of their eyes and mouths. The puppet demonstrations served as reference points for the cast, who had to respond to motion capture dots during filming.
The Mist was screened at the film festival ShowEast on October 18, 2007, at which director Frank Darabont received the Kodak Award for Excellence in Filmmaking for his previous works The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.
On the film review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, The Mist has a 73% approval rating, based on 140 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10, indicating generally favorable reviews. On the website Metacritic, the film holds an average of 58 out of 100 based on 29 reviews. Audiences polled by Cinemascore gave the film a “C"
James Berardinelli wrote of the film, "The Mist is what a horror film should be—dark, tense, and punctuated by just enough gore to keep the viewer's flinch reflex intact. ... Finally, after a long list of failures, someone has done justice in bringing one of King's horror stories to the screen. Though definitely not the feel-good movie of the season, this is a must-see for anyone who loves the genre and doesn't demand 'torture porn' from horror." Roger Ebert was negative, however, writing: "If you have seen ads or trailers suggesting that horrible things pounce on people, and they make you think you want to see this movie, you will be correct. It is a competently made Horrible Things Pouncing on People Movie. If you think Frank Darabont has equaled the Shawshank and Green Mile track record, you will be sadly mistaken."
Bloody Disgusting ranked the film #4 on their list of the "Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade", with the article saying "The scary stuff works extremely well, but what really drives this one home is Darabont's focus on the divide that forms between two factions of the townspeople—the paranoid, Bible-thumping types and the more rational-minded, decidedly left-wing members of the populace. This allegorical microcosm of Bush Jr.-era America is spot on, and elevates an already-excellent film to even greater heights."
The film was later nominated for three Saturn Awards; Best Horror Film, Best Director, and a win for Best Supporting Actress for Harden.
The film was commercially released in the United States and Canada on November 21, 2007. Over the opening weekend in the United States and Canada, The Mist grossed $8,931,973. As of August 9, 2009, the film grossed $25,593,755 in the United States and Canada and $27,560,960 in other territories for a worldwide total of $57,289,103.
The Mist was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 25, 2008. The single-disc includes an audio commentary by writer/director Frank Darabont, eight deleted scenes with optional commentary, and "A Conversation With Stephen King and Frank Darabont" featurette.
The two-disc edition includes the exclusive black and white presentation of the film, as well as the color version, and five featurettes ("When Darkness Came: The Making of The Mist", "Taming the Beast: Shooting Scene 35", "Monsters Among Us: A Look at the Creature FX", "The Horror of It All: The Visual FX of The Mist", and "Drew Struzan: Appreciation of an Artist").
In November 2013, Bob Weinstein revealed that he and Darabont were developing a 10-part television series based on the film. In February 2016, Spike picked up the pilot. In April 2016, Spike ordered the series. Emmy-winning director Adam Bernstein directed the pilot. It premiered on June 22, 2017.
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