It does not take writer-director Frank Darabont long to establish a tangible atmosphere of unease in his nerve-scraping film of Stephen King’s 1980 novella (co-produced by Darabont with, among others, Harvey and Bob Weinstein) .
It is a worthy successor to his two previous King adaptations, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. First a storm brings a tree trunk crashing through the window of the artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane). Then, minutes later, the eponymous mist advances across the lake, trapping Drayton, his young son Billy (an excellent Nathan Gamble) and a satisfying assortment of locals in a small town Maine supermarket. And when the mist releases nightmarish monsters and giant killer insects that invade the store, Drayton and the others must fight to survive…
Darabont creates and sustains unrelenting suspense in this impressive riff on the well-established man-versus-monsters genre.
It is not simply the presence of genuinely terrifying creatures that gives the film its considerable potency. Nowadays we have come to expect realistic creatures and The Mist does not disappoint. But where Darabont succeeds in endowing his movie with-above-average shock effect is in his equally vivid and believable human characterisations. Notably, Marcia Gay Harden’s increasingly hysterical religious utterances, beginning with “It’s death out there. It is the end of days!” turn many of the trapped townspeople murderously against their fellows as their situation worsens.
The key performances are uniformly effective, with British actor Toby Jones impressing as a store clerk with a surprising sharp-shooting skill. They hold their own — dramatically, at least — with the mounting thrills and out-and-out shocks of a superior horror movie which grips like a deranged strangler and ends with the most bleakly chilling dénouement I have ever seen.