Every classic horror film has that scene. A scene that defines the experience for a first-time viewer, a scene that your friends talk about after the movie ends, a scene that is spoken about and dissected by film analysts for years following its release. There is the Psycho shower scene, the Hereditary’s car scene, Halloween’s closet, The Shining’s… The Mist certainly has that scene also but this isn’t this scene, you know which one we are referring to.
The Mist from 2007 is based on a Stephen King story, a violent storm blows in a heavy mist that envelops that favorite King locale, a village in Maine. When the electric power goes out, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his young son Billy (Nathan Gamble) drive slowly into town to buy emergency supplies at the supermarket. They leave mom behind, which may turn out to be a mistake. Inside the store, we meet a mixed bag of locals and weekenders, including Brent Norton (Andre Braugher), the Draytons’ litigious neighbor; Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), a would-be messianic leader, and the store assistant Ollie (Toby Jones).
The mist rolls into the town as a mystery at first. It hovers like a wary animal next to a metal gate at the back of the supermarket. A cluster of men, David among them, are trying to decide whether it’s safe to go outside and have slid the gate up just a little. They peer at the mist, and the mist seems to confront them in turn, though no one grasps its brooding, pulsing aliveness. Then a tentacle slithers into view and slimes across the floor.
The Mist was a passion project from filmmaker Frank Darabont. Darabont worked in horror for years, writing the third Nightmare on Elm Street film and a remake of The Blob in the late 1980s. Before taking over the critical world in 1994 with The Shawshank Redemption. After years of writing and development, it was released in January of 2007. The film features an ensemble cast, including Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Nathan Gamble, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, Frances Sternhagen, Buck Taylor, William Sadler, Sam Witwer, Alexa Davalos, Chris Owen, Andy Stahl, and future The Walking Dead actors Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Melissa McBride, and Juan Gabriel Pareja.
Although a monster movie, the central theme of the movie is really the psychology of it all, it explores what ordinary people are driven to do under extraordinary circumstances. An evangelical Christian, Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden, in clover), whose observations about the End of Days first attract testy scorn and then an increasingly violent following inside the little supermarket community.
The monsters are very reminiscent of the 1950s American monster flicks. The Mist‘s creature creations run the gamut of insectoid and biological terrors, from tentacled beasties to the Impossibly Tall Monster.
Darabont hired artists Jordu Schell and Bernie Wrightson to assist in designing the creatures for the film. Greg Nicotero worked on the film’s creature design and make-up effects, while Everett Burrell served as the visual-effects supervisor. Nicotero initially sketched out ideas for creature design when Darabont originally expressed interest in filming The Mist in the 1980s.
Due to the creatures’ being described in only a few sentences in the novella, Darabont sought to conceive of new designs. The challenge was creating designs that felt unique. Nicotero reviewed past creature designs to avoid having similar designs.
When the designs were completed, Nicotero and Burrell educated the cast on the appearance of the creatures by showing puppets and the function of their eyes and mouths. The puppet demonstrations served as reference points for the cast, who had to respond to motion-capture dots during filming.
In the behind-the-scenes videos for the film, its producers explain that their design approach to the creatures stressed that they were real animals, but from an alien ecology – admittedly, dangerous, wild animals, from a more brutal ecosystem we’re not familiar with, but still basically just animals, made of flesh and blood.
“We decided the creatures were not ‘Monsters’,” Nicotero explained, “they were animal species from a different dimension, and they all had specific forms and functions. When a tentacle-creature reached in and grabbed a character, it was an exploratory act, which was a much more interesting concept than a mindless Monster out to eat human beings.”
– Greg Nicotero
One of the monsters is attached to nests near the market and uses its Tentacles to attempt to get in through the loading door. One of the Tentacles blocks up the store’s generator’s exhaust pipe. As a result, Jim and Myron open the loading door for Norm to get out and clear the pipe, allowing the Tentacles in.
Most of the Tentacles focus on Norm, while some of the others go for the dog food bags. When David attempts to drag Norm from the Tentacles’ grip, one wards him away, allowing the Tentacles to drag Norm out into the mist, where they presumably devour him alive. When David activates the loading door, the Tentacles withdraw back outside, but not before one is severed by the closing loading door.
The Mist is one of the Best Sci-Fi Movies and Best Horror Movies of the 2000s, extolling its virtues as one of the ballsiest contemporary horror movies and saving a spot on the list of Best Villains for Mrs. Carmody.
If you haven’t seen The Mist, you should. It is one of the best movie adaptations based on King’s work.