Editor’s Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on March 10, 2008, and we’re proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.


It’s a sign of the fidelity that The Mist writer/director Frank Darabont kept to Stephen King’s novella that the filmmaker spends very little of his commentary on Dimension/Genius Entertainment’s DVD discussing the adaptation process. Uncommonly faithful to its source in both word and tone, The Mist rises to the upper echelon of cinematic King adaptations, graced with a solid ensemble of performers and a clutch of very convincing and scary CG monsters. The basic scenario of a group of people trapped within a Maine supermarket by an unearthly fog—and the creatures dwelling within—is rife with all kinds of allegory that Darabont doesn’t force. Instead, he focuses his often handheld camera on how the many different personalities thrown together react to the crisis, with stalwart father David (Thomas Jane) as the reasonable hero while religious zealot Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) whips a growing group of followers into an increasingly paranoid frenzy.

One of the few narrative elements that the commentating Darabont discusses in detail is the film’s ending, one of the few moments where he deviates significantly from King, and which won’t be revealed here for those who haven’t seen the film. (If you didn’t catch The Mist during its theatrical play—and its disappointing box office suggests many people didn’t—well, shame on you!) What can be noted is that, as the writer/director points out, it resolves the story in a manner more in keeping with the worldview of Mrs. Carmody than that of David, which King’s conclusion reflected. The novella’s open-ended fadeout clearly wouldn’t have worked dramatically on screen, yet the fact that Darabont chose to switch the philosophical point of view in this way, having hewed to the original and told the story through David’s eyes up to that point, made his finale as controversial as it is powerful. Much-debated during The Mist’s big-screen release, it will no doubt be the subject of more discussion once it receives its disc exposure.

There’s no arguing, however, that the two-DVD set is a standout package that thoroughly de-mist-ifies the process by which the film was put together. With co-producer Denise Huth occasionally chiming in to clarify certain issues, Darabont is a font of information as well as praise for his collaborators, both behind and in front of the camera. Everyone is namechecked and their accomplishments noted, from the crew who helped him prepare and film this ambitious project in two six-week periods to the actors who made numerous creative contributions of their own. (Jane, prepping for his own directorial debut The Dark Country, hung out for weeks in the cutting room and became a sounding board for Darabont and his editor Hunter M. Via; co-stars Andre Braugher and Jeffrey DeMunn made small but crucial script suggestions.) Throughout, Darabont celebrates the joy of the improvisational, on-the-fly filmmaking style he adopted for The Mist—which apparently didn’t extend to the commentary itself, which he reveals was recorded over the course of four days!

Deleted scenes on DVDs often feel superfluous even in and of themselves, but the trimmed material included here is all good stuff. While the movie itself doesn’t necessarily miss these moments, it’s nice to have them here, particularly one that reveals more of the contradictions of Harden’s antiheroine. Darabont comments over these as well, and just as thoughtfully, noting at one point how cutting a bit from one scene led him to excise part of another. The first disc also contains an appreciation of movie-poster legend Drew Struzan, who served as an inspiration to the onscreen David (and who returned the favor by creating an original Dark Tower-inspired painting for the film), and a trio of entertaining webisodes spotlighting specific highlights of the production—one of them revealing that a paperback rack in the supermarket was crammed with King novels.

The centerpiece of disc two is what Darabont calls, in an introduction, his “director’s cut”: The Mist in black and white, reflecting his desire to homage the creature features of the ’50s. This kind of monochromatic translation can lead to visual flatness when a film has been lit and shot for color, but The Mist’s frequently high-contrast images lend themselves well to the conversion, with certain sequences—especially those set in the loading dock—achieving the deep, shadowy veneer of classic noir. (The movie also looks great in its principal transfer, with rich hues and a polished image; both 1.85:1 presentations are backed by very fine Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.)

Accompanying this version are a quartet of featurettes, each one well-stocked with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. When Darkness Came is a general making-of documentary, in which King expresses his own appreciation of Darabont’s work and the cast and crew join the filmmaker in describing the challenges and virtues of the fast shoot. It’s revealed that the actors and cameramen were encouraged to guide each other through the takes, and we get glimpses of that in the on-set video, along with Jane sitting alone and psyching himself up during lensing of that wrenching conclusion. Taming the Beast goes into specific detail about Scene 35, in which the bizarre bugs and birds breach the food shop’s windows and wreak havoc. It’s hard not to be impressed at how this 10-minute, action-packed setpiece was shot in only six days—especially when Darabont reveals how, “projecting myself forward into the editing room,” he scrapped his storyboards and essentially made it up as he went along. As an extra treat, this segment includes animatics of a bit involving a giant centipede that got lost along the way.

The other two featurettes, Monsters Among Us and The Horror of It All, are devoted to the film’s startling FX. Between the two of them, they provide plenty of peeks at live critter props used as references by the cast, before-and-after takes of CGI shots and onscreen comments by KNB’s Greg Nicotero, veteran illustrator Bernie Wrightson and other monster masters—plus a digital artist who recalls searching his own house for spiders to use as motion references. Now that’s devotion to getting creepy-crawlers right, and all these combined efforts resulted in a film that makes the viewer’s skin crawl on a consistent basis. If you mist it on the big screen, it’s not to be mist now.

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