January 11, 2011

The Mist: The Perfect Horror Movie (Contains Spoilers!)


The Mist, listed on IMDB.com as Horror/Sci-Fi/Thriller, combines and executes all of the genres flawlessly in a perfect blend that you can watch over and over and still enjoy just as much as the last watch. Based on a novel by Stephen King, The Mist contains an eerie and horrifying atmosphere that will keep you intrigued and guessing; always unsure of what will happen next. This is not your everyday horror movie like the ones littering movie theaters across the county out for your money; using loud musical cues and sound effects to literally make you jump out of your seat where there is no real horror. The Mist is not one of those movies.

The story begins with the main character, David Drayton, emerging from his home with his wife and son Billy the day after a violent storm tears up his yard and sends a tree through his window, destroying a painting he had been working on the following evening for his job. After exchanging a few words with his neighbor, his wife remarks that there is a strange mist coming down from the mountains. She muses that it's strange to see mist moving over the lake, but David doesn't think much of it as he takes his son and neighbor Brent into town for supplies.

As soon as they get there they start to realize something's up when the police and fire departments start moving towards the mist in a hurry and a few soldiers enter the store, looking eager to get out as quickly as possible. Their fears are confirmed when Dan Miller, one of the locals, runs into the store with a trail of blood coming from his nose shouting, "Something in the mist!". Moments later, the approaching mist completely envelopes the store followed by a large boom that shakes the store, panicking the dozens of people inside. They immediately begin to discuss what the mist could possibly be while a few people stuck outside begin screaming after the mist has moved over them. At this point, they decide going into the mist is probably a bad idea.

That can't be good...


Now that they're all in agreement that the mist is bad, they decide that waiting for rescue is the best idea. So the first order of business is to get the store's generator working. David volunteers and proceeds into the back of the store to see to the generator, leaving his son in the care of sweet old lady Irene and attractive young blond Amanda. The generator is backed up, so he shuts it off - killing the lights in the back of the store. After stumbling around in the dark for a little while, he hears a noise coming from the loading door. As he goes over to investigate, he sees it start to bend inwards and something begins banging violently on the outside of it. Frightened, he runs back into the store where a handful of other men are coming to check on him. He asks if any of them heard the noise at which point they decide to go investigate together.

They attempt to fire up the generator again and realize that the exhaust vent must be blocked outside. One of the young employees - Norm - offers to go clear it to which two of the volunteers - Jim and Myron - agree but David protests. Ignoring his plea, they open up the door enough to get a good look outside and start joking about how un-scary the mist actually is. Their tones quickly change though as a large tentacle slowly begins to emerge from the mist towards the turned employee. They try to warn him but he quickly finds the tentacle wrapped around his leg, pulling him off his feet and into the mist beyond the door. David rushes to him, fighting against the tentacle as others emerge, yelling at the others for help. They remain frozen with shock as the tentacle begins tearing at the young employees flesh and he screams in pain. Finally Ollie, the more reasonable store employee who also came with them jumps into action, breaking a fire axe out of its case and fighting back against the tentacle. But their heroic actions are for naught as the unfortunate employee is wrapped in the tentacles and forcibly dragged away screaming. In a last ditch effort, David manages to sever the end of one of the tentacles as the other store employee rushes to close the door.

I told you so...
They take a moment to catch their breaths and take in the reality of what they have just seen. Jim does his best to apologize but starts making excuses about how David should have been more clear about what he heard. David responds with a punch to the face and stomach; a reasonable outcome considering Jim egged the kid on and was ultimately responsible for his death. He instructs everyone to remain calm and not to tell anyone what happened just yet, though Ollie thinks it's an inevitability. He approaches Brent first, thinking he'll be reasonable enough to keep an open mind and listen to what they have to say. He calls them all crazy and refuses to go see the evidence in the back of the store, insulted that they would try to take advantage of him in such a way. Things get out of hand as David tries to force him to go look and he puts up a fight, drawing the attention of the entire store. Faced with no other option, Ollie gets everyone's attention and tells them to listen to what David has to say.

David warns them all that there is something in the mist. Dan Miller supports his claim, but when asked what it is he can't answer saying it all happened too quickly. David speaks up again, saying he doesn't know what they are either and that all they could see were tentacles. The crowd is immediately skeptical and calls bullshit on him and the manager of the store even threatens to file a police report, to which David invites him not to take his word for it and go see for himself. They enter the back room, seeing blood from their previous encounter and the severed tentacle by the door. They poke it with a broom handle, which causes it to twitch, startling them all as it begins to disintegrate before their eyes. The store manager, seeing enough, informs the store patrons that they have a serious problem on their hands and they begin to get to work fortifying the pane-glass windows at the front of the store.

Look, this is gonna sound weird but hear me out...

Some of the skeptics in the crowd, including Brent, begin to voice their unrest and try to gather followers to go into the mist and seek help. The other try to dissuade them, but are ineffective - though David is able to convince them to tie a rope around their waist so they can at least make sure they got away from the store safely. They agree then leave the store, fading into the mist enshrouding the parking lot. David and the store patrons continue to feed them rope slowly as they continue deeper and deeper into the mist. They think they might be in the clear when the rope suddenly shoots forward, giving David a rope burn as he and the others struggle to fight against whatever's pulling on the other side. Finally the rope goes slack and they begin to reel it back in. Horror begins to seep in as the rope reddens the more they pull inside the store. They stop short when they see the severed bottom half of the poor soul who volunteered to take the rope and immediately cut it and lock the door, seeing no other choice now but to stay put.

During the night, one of the men on watch behind the fertilizer barrier stacked up at the front of the store freaks out when a large creature of some sort smacks into the window directly in front of him. At first glance it looks like a giant mosquito, about the size of a human head. Dozens more begin smacking into the window before an even larger creature resembling a small winged lizard smashes through the glass and  begins terrorizing the store along with the smaller creatures. What follows can only be described as complete chaos as people flee for their lives and attempt to put up whatever kind of defense they can muster, which includes flaming mops, blunt objects, hairspray + lighters, and the only gun in their possession - a single revolver. They manage to take out a few of the alien creatures and eventually drive them off, but not before nearly burning down half the store and losing several people in the process.

That is a big bug.

After they re-barricade the windows and get a few moments to catch their breath, the town bitch Mrs. Carmody begins spewing her religious philosophy on them all as she has been since the mist first rolled in, saying that the creatures are beasts sent to exact judgement upon humanity for its sins. At this point, some people are actually beginning to pay attention having seen the creatures with their own eyes. The people who are still sane after the whole endeavor begin to discuss their next move, deciding that their next immediate concern is one of the soldiers who was badly burned when the flaming mop idea went terrible wrong. Unfortunately, they do not have the proper drugs needed to help him in the store and realize that the only way to help him is to enter the pharmacy across the parking lot. As much as they hate the idea, they know he'll die unless they do something so they decide to risk it.

A small group of volunteers including David, Jim, Ollie, Dan, Private Jessup and sweet old lady Irene Reppler head over to the pharmacy armed with the blunt objects, hairspray + lighter, and the pistol. They move quickly and manage to make it inside with no problems... little do they know, the worst is yet to come. They get to work looking for what they need when Jim latches on to the phrase "Oh God." as he backpedals away from a group of people hanging from the ceiling in webs. As he backs away, he runs smack into the unfortunate MP from the nearby military base who had stopped into the store earlier along with the soldiers. He grabs Jim by the shoulders, which causes him to scream hysterically and painfully mutters the line, "It's all our fault..." before his skin begins to tear and dozens of baby spiders begin to break out of his body-turned-cocoon.

A pretty reasonable reaction all things considered.

They all go intro panic mode as the mothers of the babies come to tend to their children and, seeing the intruders, begin shooting acidic webs at them. They grab what they need and retreat, but not before taking their own losses as they find themselves caught between acidic webs being shot across the room threatening to burn off their skin while the spiders impregnate them orally with a fresh batch of babies. Luckily, Irene keeps her cool and roasts a couple spiders alive with hairspray flamethrower in hand and balls of steel in pants so only two of them have to suffer that fate. They run back to the supermarket where Jimmy Boy immediately keels over and starts bawling and the rest of them do their best to shake cope with what they just witnessed.

The next scene takes place about a day later. David gets up after having slept through most of the events leading up to the current state of things. He learns that the soldier they had risked their lives to save had died in his sleep and that Mrs. Carmody now has most of the store in the palm of her hand listening to her version of what the mist is about. David, no longer in the mood to tolerate any more bullshit, approaches Private Jessup and demands to know what the MP meant back in the pharmacy. He claims ignorance so they all decide to go find his friends and ask them. They find them back in the loading dock, where they hung themselves. David begins demanding answers while Jim, who's gone completely insane from the incident in the pharmacy, follows them and throws Private Jessup into the angry mob awaiting outside.

Don't look behind you...

Jessup tells them everything he knows about Project Arrowhead - a military experiment taking place at the base up in the mountains - and it's goal of creating a window into another dimension. The crowd accuses him of bringing down the wrath of God on them and begin shouting and beating him up, eventually stabbing him as he cries in protest. Mrs. Carmody orders them to feed him to the beasts in order to quell their wrath against them all. They comply, throwing him out of the store and watching as a giant mantis-like creature pierces him through the chest with its claw and flings him away from the door. "The beasts will leave us alone tonight." Mrs. Carmody assures them, rewarding their behavior.

Some time afterward, David and co. finally decide they can stay no longer and make plans to escape in one of the cars outside, thinking that at best they might be able to make it out of the mist but that just getting away from Mrs. Carmody  would be a start. As they make their way to the front, they're stopped by Mrs. Carmody, who immediately draws the store patrons' attention to them in an attempt to stop them. She nearly has them detained when Ollie suddenly fires the pistol at her, hitting her in the stomach. She drops to her knees and he puts one right between her eyes for good measure, ceasing her judgmental words once and for all. This was one of the most satisfying scenes in the movie for me, as Mrs. Carmody is a continual pain in the ass; replacing all logical thinking with religious bias. 

With no more attempts on their lives, they continue unhindered into the parking lot where they are immediately beset by the mantis-creature that had taken Private Jessup earlier. Ollie is killed fairly quickly by it as he attempts to defend them all and a few others are taken out by spiders from the pharmacy, leaving David, Billy, Amanda, Dan and Irene. At the last moment, David decides it might be a good idea to grab the gun from the hood of the car, bloodied from Ollie, before they continue. He races against a spider for it as it lunges on top of the hood, but manages to grab it and close the door quickly before it can get to them. With gun in hand, they start off slowly into the mist as the remainder of the supermarket patrons watch them depart.

Four bullets, five passengers.

They roll slowly along, committing to go as far as the car will take them on the fuel they have. On the way, David passes by their house where he sees his wife webbed to the outside, either dead or worse. Along the way they pass by an enormous creature the size of an office building, staring in awe as it towers over them. Eventually they reach the end of their journey as the car sputters and dies, completely out of fuel. They had given it their shot, and now saw in silence deciding their next course of action. David eyes the gun in his hand thoughtfully, glancing at each one of them to see if they're thinking what he's thinking. They nod reluctantly as he opens the chamber and counts the bullets. Four bullets - five of them. "I'll figure something out." he says as they ready themselves.

Four shots later the passengers of the car are dead, including his son. He screams in agony, holding the gun in his mouth as he pulls the trigger futilely, wishing for a bullet that he doesn't have. He emerges from the car, shouting "Come on!" to anything that may be nearby waiting to kill him. He doesn't have to wait long before a loud rumble approaches him, assuring him a quick death. He squints into the mist as the source of the rumble approaches. He looks on in disbelief as a tank emerges from the mist, followed by a long line of military Humvees and trucks packed with survivors moving away from the quickly dissipating mist. Soldiers in Hazmat suits pass by, burning away webbing as he looks back at the dead passengers. Two soldiers stop to inspect him and the car as he falls to his knees, overcome by grief and screaming in despair in realizing that they had been mere minutes away from rescue at the edge of the mist.

Moments away from rescue.

The Mist qualifies as one of my favorite horror movies of all time because it leaves a lot to the imagination instead of spelling it all out for you at the end and doesn't use audio cues to make you afraid. The fear is in the unknown happening in the mist around them, and the speculation that they could be the only humans left alive on earth as far as they know. Also, the unknown origin of the mist is a constant thorn in the side of any logic they try to use to analyze it. Is it demons? Aliens? Man-made? They don't have any solid evidence until near the end of the movie, and that still doesn't answer the question of when it all will end. This is manifested perfectly by the end of the movie when David and the rest of the sane survivors accept the reality that they may be the last humans alive and agree to end their lives together after giving it their best shot... only David is forced out of the pact by their limited ammo. When he is the last alive, and the soldiers show up to deal with the situation, carting away survivors the horror comes full circle. Where there could have been a happy ending involving them making it out together after having lost almost everything, instead, he is doomed to live with the fact that the end was only minutes away, and now he would never get friends or little boy back.

If you haven't seen the movie or read the book I highly recommend it. Whether you'r a fan of Horror or Sci-Fi, I think the Mist present the ultimate balance of both and, in movie form, also adds all the thriller elements used in modern movies to keep viewers enthralled by the on-screen elements. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go make a bowl of popcorn and watch it again. :)