The Threat Within
by Brody Rossiter
In a post-9/11 world we’ve become worryingly accustomed to scenes of catastrophe. It’s often difficult to immediately process the destruction we witness via rolling news channels and social media feeds, yet the human reaction to such terrifying scenarios still feels “real” and often deeply unnerving. Our physical and mental frailties are laid out in full view of the world, and while rivers of bent steel and crumbling rubble may still feel imperceptible, fear and bravery pierce through mediated barriers and touch us on a profound level.
The Mist is essentially a disaster movie in which the form of the disaster is unclear throughout a good deal of the film. Perhaps nature’s wrath is to blame, or perhaps the nearby mill has exploded, shrouding this New England town in a vast cloud of deadly chemicals. Either way, a group of locals are trapped inside a grocery store by the mystery mist, a deadly, killer mist.
With the physical horrors outside literally blanketed in smoke and shadow, the wild range of human emotion conjured in the midst of a crisis quickly becomes the driving force within The Mist, constantly developing characters and their traits despite them being trapped down the meat and dairy aisle. The real horror lies within the characters imprisoned inside – rest assured there’s also some really messed-up stuff outside too – and their rapid disintegration into fear, violence, religious extremism and ultimately madness.
Director Frank Darabont is the man responsible for bringing the Walking Dead to our television screens before he was infamously and unceremoniously ditched by the show’s network, AMC. Personally, I found the episodes which Darabont helmed to be boorish and often downright dull character studies that rarely forwarded the narrative. However, the necessity to cram a similarly horrific disaster into a cinema friendly runtime of just over two hours clearly suits the seasoned filmmaker, as distinct character progression is matched with action-packed set-pieces, marking shifts in the group of survivors’ dynamic while thinning out their ranks.
The Punisher’s Thomas Jane is a solid if somewhat indelicate leading man, faring far better with a weapon in his hand than when saddled with an emotional conversation. But all in all, the cast has much strength in its numbers, numbers which include several actors who would later become Walking Dead alumni. The Mist skilfully balances harrowing supernatural horror with psychological realism, highlighting that while we will always overcome the disasters which we now seemingly face daily, we have to survive the threat we pose to one another in their wake first.