Starring Thomas Jane and Marcia Gay Harden. Rated 18A.
Writer-director Frank Darabont had skillfully translated the human drama of Stephen King's work in The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption , but he seems hopelessly lost in The Mist , his adaptation of the horror master's 1980 novella. Its first half-hour echoes the severe lousiness of Maximum Overdrive , King's first and last director's job, a clunky reworking of his riveting short story "Trucks". In The Mist , pointless conversations between small-town residents in Maine are used to kill time until a bunch of them wind up in the local supermarket, replenishing supplies after a freak storm that has caused a thick fog to roll into town. "There's something in the mist!" screams one desperate man as he hightails it into the safety of the store, with blood running from his nose as if the mist had punched him in the face.
Among the trapped residents are movie-poster artist David Drayton ( Dreamcatcher 's Thomas Jane, channelling Christopher Lambert's forehead), cowardly mouthpiece Jim Grondin ( Shawshank 's William Sadler), and ill-tempered Bible thumper Mrs. Carmody ( Mystic River's Marcia Gay Harden), who says things like: "If I ever need a friend like you, I'll just squat in my room and shit one out." More interminable small-town chatter ensues until one of the store's younger employees braves the mist and gets torn up and dragged away by hokey-looking CGI tentacles.
Just as it appears as if The Mist is destined to be a King-spawned failure of biblical (i.e., Children of the Corn ) proportions, its creature designs turn wicked. Two-foot dragonflies with scorpion-like stingers land on the store's windows and attract fierce mini-pterodactyls that swoop off with them, shattering windows in the process. When a few of the bloodthirsty critters make it inside the store, the film becomes hugely entertaining, and the frenzied thrills continue when a Drayton-led search party stumbles into the lair of gigantic spiders.
That's it for the worthwhile stuff, though. When The Mist 's mutated monstrosities aren't causing serious damage on-screen, its underdeveloped characters, hackneyed dialogue, and heavy-handed moralizing are taking care of that. We get what you're driving at, Darabont: it's humans who are the real monsters of the world. Would it have killed you to cloak that message in a decent fright flick?