The Mist (Black & White Version)

Director FRANK DARABONT couldn’t help but imagine his production of STEPHEN KING’s THE MIST in good old-fashioned black and white. To him (and KING himself apparently) the story recalled movies like 1955’s IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, a black and white classic crawling with RAY HARRYHAUSEN fueled stop-motion tentacles. He was also inspired by the urgent documentary style of GEORGE ROMERO’s 1968 shoestring juggernaut NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. That tale concerning strangers trapped in a claustrophobic space battling a deadly worldwide threat had obvious similarities to KING’s apocalyptic novella. It’s not surprising that financiers craving coffers of coinage rather than crickets chirping as a response to the film, balked at the idea. DARABONT went ahead with the project, filming in color on a tight schedule, but always keeping his original vision in the back of his mind. Taking a cue from the COEN BROTHERS who filmed THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE in color and than transformed it into B&W in postproduction, DARABONT mused that he might simply do the same in reverse.
The two-disc collector’s edition of THE MIST comes complete with his black and white version of the film. DARABONT states that it is his preferred version and the closest thing you’re going to get to a director’s cut of the film. Couldn’t you simply adjust your television to create the same effect? Perhaps, but it’s important to keep in mind that the director specifically filmed the movie in a way that would best compliment this future transition. In his introduction to this alternate version, DARABONT speaks of the “heightened reality” that B&W inherently offers and reminds us that the only place in the world that we can see this representation of reality is in a black and white film. Whether you are a fan of THE MIST or not, anyone interested in film owes it to themselves to compare the two versions. It’s amazing to note that from the very first scene the tone of the film is drastically altered. My advice is turn off all the lights, blast the sound and prepare for transportation…
After a now stunning white flash electrical storm David Drayton (a never better THOMAS JAYNE) and his son travel with a grudge carrying neighbor (the impeccable ANDRE BRAUGHER) to a nearby supermarket for supplies. Once there, they are waylaid by a supernatural mist that, in B&W, is the visual equivalent to God shaking the world off his etch-a-sketch. It is learned that besides impeding one’s vision, this smoky bank is also host to a variety of fantastic creatures who come from a dimension where they could plausibly use the Necronomicon as a telephone book. The trio is then trapped in the supermarket with the general public, (just think about that for a moment) when the most horrific decision since SOPHIE’S CHOICE is presented: either go outside and be strangled by slithering tentacled appendages or stay in the store and act out a mash-up version of THE TWILIGHT ZONE’sThe Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” and JEAN-PAUL SARTRE’s NO EXIT.
I should point out that it’s come to my attention that some sensitive viewers took offense to some of the vaguely political statements made by certain characters, and the way that religion was represented in this film. I feel for you people and although you can’t hear it, I am playing a tune I composed for you on my violin that some say is the world’s smallest. (Once upon a time movies were allowed to step on a few toes and guess what? They were better back than!) Anyhows, personalities continue to clash like symbols, SHIRLEY JACKSON flavored mob mentality begins to reign and what should be a jolly stomp to the nearby pharmacy to steal painkillers turns into an intense battle that culminates with resident granny FRANCES STERHAGEN channeling RAMBO. Not enough can be said about MARCIA GAY HARDEN’s turn as the irascible Mrs. Carmody. She clearly hit some kind of authentic nerve, because when I saw this theatrically, the audience stood up and cheered at her performance. (O.K., maybe it wasn’t her performance exactly that they were cheering.) To say more could spoil for some the comeuppance of what may be the best love-to-hate character to grace the screen in decades.
All right enough about the plot. You’ll either love or hate the fact that DARABONT goes against genre conventions at every turn, while still saluting and obviously revering horror’s history. The much-debated ending is of the bravest sort and for my money, debatable means good. At the end of the day, you’ll see what ever the hell you want to when you look into THE MIST. Whatever threat it brings, both real or imagined, on screen or off, basically depends on you. If THE MIST does have any real power, besides its monstrous inhabitants, it is a natural ability to literally “cloud” people’s minds. By movies end ask yourself why people made the decisions they did, even the most frustrating and tragic ones can be explained by the character not seeing the forest for the trees, ignoring the bigger picture and assuming that their idea of the truth, based on limited facts was the accurate one. The reality is we all deal with something like THE MIST now and again, a period of confusion where it seems we are surrounded by life’s demons. Funny how a mother, too determined to save her children to involve herself with the social rigmarole of the store, is later shown, kids in tow as a survivor.
Is the black and white version superior? In a lot of ways yes; it’s definitely more atmospheric and whatever glitches that could be detected in the CGI on the big screen are now permanently mended. The use of light and shadow in particular graduates from admirable to awe inspiring. (Check out MARCIA’s lavatory praying scene). But I wouldn’t trade seeing this with a semi-packed audience for the world. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced real audience camaraderie before, but this is one of those too scarce films that supports that kind of reaction. It’s rare that we get to talk about current movies here on Kindertrauma, but not only does THE MIST contain a great TRAUMATOT performance from NATHAN GAMBLE as Drayton’s son, but his journey and it’s sucker punch climax are the likes of which cinema history is made. Now that the film is available to be viewed at home, you can bet your bottom dollar on countless youngsters checking this baby out and sealing its fate as a future TRAUMAFESSION catalyst. I don’t know whether to fear for those young viewers or to be absolutely jealous of what THE MIST, any version, is going to do to their brains.

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Tommy V
15 years ago

Sucker punch climax is right! That ending served no purpose other than to be a sucker punch! Also known as meaningless contempt for the audience.

You can get away with that in a 23 minute Twilight Zone where there is some irony there, and maybe even a point, but not a 130 minute feature. With a 130 minute feature I just left asking, “Why does Mr. Darabont resent me so much? What did I do to him?” And then I forgot about the film until reading this fawning review.

I think the anti-Christian themes and characters probably plays better with audiences who are, in fact, anti-Christian themselves. As a non-Christian (who is not anti-Christian) I found it pretty unconvincing, and like the ending, I just saw the filmmaker’s hands all over this mess instead of just watching a cohesive story.

So many good scenes ruined by Darabont’s compulsion to insert himself. Too bad, you could have build a classic around the drug store scene itself.

Pax Romano
15 years ago

I finally watched this film yesterday. Sadly, the rental copy I have does not include the B/W version, but I am toying with the idea of adjusting the color on the set and re watching tonight.

That said, I absolutely loved this film. What a shock, since most horror films these days are predictable tripe.

Frankly, the Xian point of view seemed as crazy as the lawyer’s pov (when he and his followers just left the store). People will embrace what ever works for them in a time of crisis be it superstition, logic, science or just the will to survive at any cost.

And yes, where was Marcia Gay Harden’s Oscar???

As for the ending, I knew it was coming because someone told me; but still it was intense and, in its own way, very logical (from the character’s point of view).

Bottom line, I’d like to see the people who get this worked up over a movie turn their energies to things that really need attention in the world – damn, imagine that!

Tommy V
15 years ago

First, I don’t think that is a fair statement Pax makes about, “I’d like to see the people who get this worked up over a movie turn their energies to things that really need attention in the world.”

I think it would be difficult to make the case that anything in the world is not getting done because of the lather people have gotten themselves worked up to because of The Mist. As for me, this is kindertrauma, after all, isn’t? Isn’t this what movie fans do? Get worked up over movies?

Second, for the argument that, in the end, Drayton (Thomas Jane) was really not that different than the others: I can see the point. Intellectually. But I don’t think that comes across on screen at all, and I think if that was what the filmmakers intended, they did a piss poor job of achieving it. If you have to try that hard in order to make something make sense, and in effect, do the filmmakers job of making sense of their own film and ending, then there is something wrong.

Both the lawyer (Braugher) and Carmody (Harden) where coming from dark places. Braugher didn’t want to be made a fool of and his arrogance got the better of him. Carmody was a judgmental creature who thought she was an instrument of God. There’s not a horror movie out there that these people can survive in. They’re going to die.

But Drayton was different than the others. He sacrificed himself. With only 4 bullets he chose himself to be eaten alive or worse. This was a selfless act. It came from his love of these other people that he would sacrifice himself for them. And how did the authors repay him and us? But playing God themselves and torturing him and us for no greater purpose than to get a reaction.

I think if the movie had made some attempt to unify this ending with the rest of the film it would have been a more satisfying conclusion. I don’t need a happy ending, I just need a satisfying one. What Drayton chose to do made perfect sense. If there was some flaw in his logic or emotion that led him to shoot those 4 people, if it was exposing some tragic character flaw, if there was some set-up and this was a payoff, I could see the reasoning… but there weren’t any of these things.

His choice compared to Carmody’s reaction when the creature is atop her is interesting. Carmody surrenders herself to God’s will and lives, and Drayton, when given no more choices, gives up and shoots his companions. The film, however, does not make this linkage for us. The film doesn’t behave like it knows the link is there, and seems to use Carmody’s survival as more ammo for her delusions. In addition, its not like Drayton can be defined as someone who “gives up”. He has been fighting the hardest and facing death for two days. He has shown a balance of courage and character the others have not. One can not make the case that his “giving up” is some sort of character flaw that leads to this tragic end. Linking it to, “what you can make people do when they’re afraid” would make more sense if he did something sellfish like kill himself and leave someone else alive to die a horrible, horrible death. He didn’t do that, he sacrificed himself for the others. The poor guy just saw what happened to his wife and he doesn’t want the same outcome for his kid or these other people.

There’s no doubt in my mind you could have built a film with this exact ending and make it satisfying. But to have to look back to the film and grab little pieces here and there and then try to make a connection (he’s just like the others (he wasn’t), his logic is the same (it isn’t)), just leaves me feeling manipulated and not just a little annoyed. Again, I don’t need a happy ending, just a satisfying one. I paid good money to see that film. I want a little consideration from the filmmakers.

If the rest of the film was terrible I wouldn’t care, but I enjoyed most of it. And now I have forgotten the film itself, and I am just sat back wondering what these people were thinking when they thought that an audience was going to leave the theatre satisfied. Were they thinking they were clever by doing that to us? Did they think that we were somehow suckers for caring about these characters? Did they think that this was genuinely the most satisfying ending they could envision?

The more I think about it the more I am at a loss.

Pax Romano
15 years ago

The remark about people getting “worked up” over this movie had nothing to do with your remarks…I should have been clearer; I’d just finished reading several pages of comments about the movie elsewhere and people were going bonkers over the characterization of the religious woman and her followers in the film. That’s all.

Tommy V
15 years ago

Uncle Lancifer,

Believe me, I hate disagreeing with you on this, because I don’t think there is a better critic or observer of horror movies out there, but we’re not going to see eye-to-eye on this.

I do want to note that I don’t think you’re representing me very well by suggesting I am more comfortable with a focus group dictating the ending. Does Darabont’s vision amount simply to an ending that makes a portion of their audience wonder why they just sat through that? I have to ask if Darabont’s vision encompassed more than that. If so, then asking him to clarify his vision more so I don’t feel like he just snuck up behind me, whacked me, and giggled out, “sucker” is hardly trying to crap down his film.

Unless his vision was, in fact, about a sucker punch, which a part of me suspects it was. For some reason, he and King fell in love with that. Perhaps it worked better in the novella, and Darabont wanted to stay as loyal as he could to the source.

I wonder if part of the appeal of this film is that it offends so many people that we don’t like, and that those same people are not only offended by the film, but are annoyed with the ending as well! We can give these silly folks the finger twice in 130 minutes! If they were smarter, they would know that the ending was good for them! Can part of a film be how how other people react to it? (there’s a long discussion right there!)

For the record, I don’t think a film is “supposed” to be anything other than satisfying. It doesn’t have to be happy or sad, just a good story. That’s all I ask. I don’t think finding an ending completely unsatisfying is the same as forcing a filmmaker into a focus group and making him give me the ending I want. There have been plenty of sad or depressing endings that were satisfying, and in fact, would not have been as satisfying if they ended happily.

As I said in my post, it’s not the ending itself that bothers me so much, but the 120 minutes prior to the ending COMBINED with that particular ending. These two elements just didn’t match. Change one of them, the ending, or the previous 120 minutes to better fit the ending – I don’t care which. An ending should fit the film that its ending. That’s not cookie-cutter dullness, that’s just good story-telling.

I can appreciate that the filmmakers tried something different, but I do wonder how brave it was. It would have been brave if they cared what the audience thought, but I’m not convinced they did! If they don’t care what the audience thinks, I wonder how brave it was.

The reason I do think Darabont was just trying to maliciously pull the rug out from under us is because he is such a talented filmmaker. He knows what he is doing and I just can’t imagine him being so incompetent that he meant something else when he did this.

And as far as forgetting the film, what I meant is that all I think about now is the ending and the directors hand in it – not the experience of the film in its entirety. Just the ending. Obviously this discussion has made me think of the film more than I ever thought I would. Thinking about it more has not made the film more appealing to me.

15 years ago

Excellent movie! I read the novella back in the prehistoric 70s and found the movie much more horrific.
The audience went wild, me included, when the fundy nutjob got put down like the mad dog she was! So satisfying. And I don’t care what anyone says…that character was true to life (check out any t.v. fundy preacher if you doubt it)
The ending rocked as well!! My friends and I STILL discuss it. A classic for sure.

15 years ago

Unkle Lancifer, I think you completely nailed this movie with your review and I share the love you have for it. Unlike most people, I find that the ending has what is ultimately an uplifting, positive message; DO NOT GIVE UP! Fight ’till the end, and never abandon hope.

Unlike some filmmakers who use “twist” or “shock” endings to trick audiences into believing they’ve viewed a great movie, the ending to “The Mist” is neither cheap nor tacked on. It actually means something.

And your point about it being a horrific ending to a horror film is also appreciated. Everything does not always end well in real life…we all die in the end, ya know. Besides, the truth always makes people uncomfortable. This isn’t just one of the best horror films ever made; it’s one of the best MOVIES ever made. Someday it will be appreciated as such.

lcd tv
12 years ago

I think because it is Black & White it’s more mysterious and maybe somehow more scary, I love how black & white was used in Memento!

12 years ago

Had the ending just stayed vague and unclimaxed as in the novella, I think I would have felt lackluster about the movie. We’ve seen vague endings, they don’t always work either. Who’s to say that five minutes later they wouldn’t have been stepped on by that giant creature, or gone for a month slowly starving to death, only to eat the boy anyway because he fit in the oven best, who knows.
I hated the ending when I saw the film the first time because it made me feel a real sense of loss and regret. Yes it was a huge shock, but why can’t the biggest shock be saved for the end? Especially when it actually works. It didn’t make me hate the movie. But I appreciated the difference that made after watching a horror movie. It really seemed to illustrate, to me, that a choice is a choice and you have to live with it. Even after surviving a horrible experience you can make bad choices. Kinda like real life. Oh, maybe that was the problem, big baby movie goers don’t want real life reminders invading their precious theater moments. Then turn off your cell phones , ya bastards! Anyway. The choice was made for us and all we could do was watch and feel.