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THE MIST – Mark Isham

November 23, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Clark Douglas

I’m a fan of director Frank Darabont. I like his steady direction, and I like the way he gives the characters in his films time to breathe. His adaptation of the Stephen King story “The Shawshank Redemption” is one of the most beloved films of all time, frequently being mentioned in the same breath as “Casablanca”. Darabont turned to King again for his next film, “The Green Mile”, a moving drama with some good characters. Yet another Stephen King story is the basis for Darabont’s latest film, “The Mist”. Unlike the first two King stories, “The Mist” is not an uplifting drama, but rather a straight-ahead horror story. I knew that the film would have to be different in tone than the first two King adaptations Darabont directed… but this? “The Mist” is absolutely bonkers.

It begins in a manner fairly typical of a horror film. A bunch of people wind up trapped inside a building, trying to fend off vampires, or zombies, or killer bees, or whatever. Take your pick. In this movie, it’s a mist (not a fog… that’s the John Carpenter movie). Well, truth be told, they’re not defending themselves against the mist, exactly… they’re worried about the creatures lurking in the mist. There are things going bump in the night out there, and bump in the day, and pretty soon they’re going to bump their way right into the store. We never find out what exactly these creatures are, but I would describe the ones I saw as scorpion-flies, raccoon-spiders, buggalos, pterodactyl-buzzards, and praying mantis-ponies. Anyway, they’re fearsome critters.

The people trapped in the store are the usual assortment of one-or-two-dimensional character types. There’s the square-jawed hero (Thomas Jane), the meek clerk with the gun (Toby Jones), the pretty young girl, her soldier boyfriend, the dumb angry guy, the old sassy lady, and so on, and so on, and so on. The character that stands out the most is the Crazy Religious Lady (Marcia Gay Harden), a bizarre and shrill preacher of sorts who rants on endlessly about doomsday and judgment and blood sacrifices. These characters have the usual squabbles people have in these movies… “We should try to escape!” “No, that’s foolish, you should stay in here!” The hero and the crazy lady start forming sides, and the people are battling each other as well as the giant bugs.

These aren’t terribly complex characters, and Darabont knows it. If you get a chance, go to Yahoo! Movies and check out the clip of Darabont offering a bit of commentary on one scene in the movie. Darabont looks at Thomas Jane and grins, “If he had seen this kind of movie before, he would know not to do that, but apparently he hasn’t seen such movies.” Watching Darabont giggle over his computer moniter, it becomes apparent that he’s simply having fun making a violent genre flick… think of it as Darabont’s unofficial contribution to “Grindhouse”.

The increasingly busy Mark Isham provides the score for “The Mist” (he also scored Darabont’s “The Majestic”). The score is probably Isham’s least memorable effort of the year, as the composer only turns in a small amount of atmospheric score. Most of the film is left unscored, but several of the more action-oriented scenes offer up some percussion-heavy horror material. The cues are effective enough in context, but don’t really add a whole lot to the proceedings. A listen to the upcoming album release of the score may reveal more subtleties than I heard during the film, but I can’t say that I was terribly impressed. However, Isham’s score works, while the wailing vocals of Lisa Gerard in the Dead Can Dance piece used several times during the final ten minutes of the film is terribly obtrusive. I suppose it might work if the film has succeeded in pulling you into its world, but to my ears it sounded obnoxious and obtrusive. The use of the piece simultaneous feels like a bold failure and a typical cliché. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, “How many times must the wailing woman sing, ‘till too many wails have been cried?” I’m afraid that answer is still blowing in the wind.

The movie is shamelessly manipulative from start to finish… well, especially at the finish. The ending is just plain ridiculous, so far over-the-top and preposterous that it’s actually kind of amusing. I’m not talking about the “Men in Black” ending type of preposterous, either. In addition, the film’s villainess is such a horrendously awful and noisy woman, she becomes a goofy caricature. “The Mist” is most assuredly not a good movie, and can’t be taken as seriously as, say, “1408” or “Misery”. It’s not that kind of Stephen King horror movie. However, I defy you to grow bored with this ridiculous madness. I can’t recommend the film, but I secretly admire Darabont’s willingness to make such a certifiably insane film. The film is positively humorless from start to finish, but it’s also very funny, if you know what I mean. It is what it is, that’s for certain, but what it is I will leave to you to decide for yourself.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • Won’t Somebody See A Lady Home? (1:24)
  • Tentacles (3:18)
  • Bugs (7:49)
  • Mist (1:32)
  • Spiders (4:26)
  • ExpIation (2:24)
  • The Host of Seraphim – Special Film Version (written by Lisa Gerrard, Brendan Perry and Mark Isham, performed by Dead Can Dance) (7:19)
  • The Vicious Blues (from Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, composed by Mark Isham) (3:48)

Running Time: 32 minutes 00 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-6873 (2007)

Music composed by Mark Isham. Performed by The Sodden Dog Electronic Arts Society. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands and Tyler Parkinson. Edited by Joe E. Rand. Score produced by Mark Isham.

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