There are certain films you will watch that leave you with a certain feeling of unease. Now i’m not talking about Horror films in general, and i’m definitely not thinking of the recent “shock” horror (no pun intended) genre that seems to have emerged, movies like the Saw franchise, Hostel, or Wolf Creek. As I write this i’m thinking of those kind of horror films that really connect with a childlike sense of fear, the kind of real fear reserved for unthinkably hopeless circumstance.
The best examples of this kind of feeling I can think of what i’d call ‘dark’ horror, in direct opposition to ‘sick’ horror. The first thing that springs to mind is the note left for Cillian Murphy’s character in 28 Days Later by his parents, that simply read “We left you sleeping, don’t wake up” – that sense of utter desperation, and the (crucially) unseen and thereby unfathomable desparation that created that situation. Then, having Steven King directly in mind, I can’t help but recall the moment that you realise Kathy Bates is a lot more formidable than she at first seems as she hobbles James Caan’s legs in “Misery”. Its that feeling of unease that only comes with a lack of hope a a spiralling turn of events that most horror films effectually ‘bottle out of’ early.
Go to Apple trailers now and take a look at forthcoming horror / supernatural movies due for release, you can guarantee that 99% of them will feature some kind of tacked on ‘good / bad’, or ‘happy / sad’ sense of balance that leave you, not with the feeling I spoke of above, but with a sense of ‘If things go to hell, someone with a gun will probably rock up and sort it out so chill out yeah?’.
Which brings me neatly, if intentionally, to Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘The Mist’. Now lets clear any confusion straight away – this is not to be confused with that crap teen horror ‘The Fog’ from a couple of years back, so put that out of your mind. Frank Darabont’s previous credits are The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, to my mind both excellent and effective films. So when I saw the trailer for The Mist back in December, I was intrigued. You can view the trailer here and I recommend you do so, as its even a masterclass in the art of a good trailer. I can’t explain why its a great trailer without giving away spoilers but suffice to say it gives so little away about the film that once you see it, I hope you’ll agree that its a perfect balance – and I’m stark opposition to trailers for pap like AvP which pack every bite, bullet and ‘oh shit!’ moment into a 1 minute clip.
Having just watched The Mist I find it hard to know where to start in writing a recommendation. I can’t of course give away some of the excellent plot points / sequences without ruining surprises in the film that i’m also bursting to tell you about. Basically its the kind of film that, like something shocking you’ve seen in real life – you almost have to talk about it to get it out of your system. And yes i’m sure you’ve read many reviews of horror films that ‘get under your skin’ but i’ve never used that phrase to describe a film until now. So here it is, The Mist WILL get under your skin and leave you upset. There are no two ways about it, its not a film i’d recommend to anyone in a bad mood or anyone who has had a bad day, you need to be upbeat or in a good frame of mind to watch it, because as I said it will upset you. Perfect example to me is taking the kind of angry / appalled feeling you get watching a film like ‘Nil by Mouth’ and combining it with the genuine horror / desperation of ‘The Wicker Man’ or the aforementioned ’28 Days Later’ – real character driven dramas that aren’t simply compelling in the source of the horror, but in the character’s responses to it.
So without further waffle, let me sum up with this. If you’re looking for an intelligent thriller that spans both horror and supernatural, with an incredible supporting cast, you won’t find a more satisfying film than The Mist. If you’re looking for a thinking man’s action film with hints of Jaws, The Wicker Man, Tremors, The Host, and so many other influences I don’t know where to begin, then look no further. However, if you’re looking for a good night’s sleep – like the one I won’t be getting tonight, leave well alone.