Welcome to the first of what I hope will be a regular series here at subwaymovies (name change pending). In it, I’ll re-watch and review a movie I enjoyed at some point in my past. OK, maybe “enjoyed” is too strong a word. Let’s change that to “saw”. A movie I saw at some point in my past. Most of these movies are probably going to be pretty bad. The first entry is certainly no exception.
The Mist was one of the most frustrating experiences in a movie theater I can recall. I probably should’ve seen that coming. But see, I have a friend named The Mask. When we first heard about this movie, we started calling him The Myst*. We had a pretty good time with it. It seemed only right we should see the movie. Plus we were on a big-time Tom Jane kick due to some hilarious viewings of The Punisher. And really, The Mist didn’t look half-bad (tricky ad campaign-more on that later). We figured we’d get a bunch of guys together, take some binger rips and head up to Ward Parkway Mall. The stars were aligned.
*In my head all these years mist was spelled with a y. I really had myself convinced the movie was called The Myst. It was a kick in the pants when I saw the cover. Now I gotta construct that fantasy all over again.
What happened next is harder to recall. I think my brain has been frantically trying to erase it ever since it happened, as brains tend to do with scarring events. If a movie is truly horrendous I’ll have forgotten most of it within a year. I’m already looking forward to the time when I can no longer remember From Paris With Love (an opinion that is far from unanimous I realize).
Here’s what I remember about the original Mist hang: I had to go to the bathroom twice, and both times I was totally cool with it. Didn’t even hesitate, just got up and walked out as soon as I had to go. Afterwards we were all pretty angry. My recollection is that we briefly discussed how much we hated the movie, and then went our separate ways. Hang over.
Fast-forward to the present day. I have this client who has hundreds of DVDs; maybe a thousand. A lot of them are bad, and some are unopened. I get the feeling this couple just buys any random movie they see. They live in an amazing apartment, so they obviously have some money. If I was in that situation I’d probably buy a bunch of dumb DVDs too. The point is, it’s a great resource. I borrow movies all the time. I noticed The Mist in their collection a while back and mentally bookmarked it. I was like, “I see you, The Mist, and one of these days I’m gonna finish what I started three years ago.”
I re-watched it thursday night, went through some quick hits saturday and I’m watching it again right now. I’m glad I have access to this movie. I thought Legion was bad, but when it comes to the “stuck in a building hiding from monsters” horror genre, The Mist takes the cake. It’s a stupid, ridiculous movie, and Frank Darabont, the writer and director, should be shamed of himself. This is the guy that did Shawshank. Unbelievable.
It’s hard to know what to single out. Do you need a plotline? Mist comes, there are monsters in it, the people hide in a grocery store. I didn’t leave anything out. The movie is basically 90 minutes of filler. Virtually all of it takes place within the grocery store. This allows for a wide variety of stupid characters to interact with each other. There’s Tom Jane and his son, the schoolteacher, the biker dude, the crazy religious lady, the girl-next-door cashier, the military guys, the hicks, the kick-butt grandma*, the farmer, the nerdy stock-boy, and a score of other locals who all know each other’s names (“Afternoon, Mr. Mackey”, “Hey there, Ollie”, “Hello, Mrs. Hatlen.”) This is a small town. People look out for each other (“let me lend a hand, Mr. Jessup.”).
*This old lady is featured so prominently that during the original viewing my boy Kone-Dawg sent me a text that said, “They should call this movie “kick-butt grandma.”
The two most hilarious characters are Tom Jane’s neighbor, played by Andre Braugher, and the manager of the grocery, played by Toby Jones. We’ll start with Braugher, aka that guy I sometimes confuse with Delroy Lindo. His character is responsible for most of my favorite scenes. A surprisingly large percentage of the movie is spent on Braugher and others denying there is anything in the mist. This continues even after a stock boy is carried away by tentacles, one of which is cut off and shown to everyone. Still, Braugher remains unconvinced. He accuses Tom Jane of trying to “humiliate him.” Again, this is after they’ve seen and heard multiple people die in the mist. It’s really something.
I was laughing just looking at Braugher. The faces he makes, the way he talks, his heavily exaggerated movements and mannerisms that are intended to look casual, everything about him is hilarious. The fact that his character has such a bizarre, seemingly useless role in the film is the icing on the cake. This is a sure-fire candidate for the ridiculous character hall of fame. He eventually walks out into the mist with some followers and is killed by monsters. Before he leaves Tom Jane tries to stop him. He asks, “what if you’re wrong?” Braugher looks at him with this weird smile on his face and replies, “Well then the joke……will be on me.” Crazy.
Toby Jones as Ollie the grocery store manager is much more subtle, yet equally mind-boggling. The guy looks A LOT like a hobbit, but instead on endearing he’s actually sort of frustrating to look at. I can’t imagine ever casting him in a movie. But in this movie, he’s the ultimate badass. There are like four scenes that feature a closeup of Ollie’s face after he’s done something awesome. He saves the day many, many times. Maybe more than all the other characters combined. It gets pretty weird. At one point they’re deciding who should hold their only gun and he steps forward and says, “I will. State champ in ’94.” State champ of what? Shooting guns? Is that a high school sport? And anyway this guy would’ve been well into his thirties in ’94. Ah, well, who cares, right? It’s just a movie. Anyway, Ollie never, ever misses. When a monster needs killed, Ollie does the killing. Until the end when this giant scorpion-like monster eats him. They spend an hour attempting to develop this character and he doesn’t even get a final line. If you blink, his death is missed (Myst?).
There are too many funny characters to give all their due, but a few more deserve mention.
- The Kick Butt Grandma- She throws peas, she talks sass, she wields a blowtorch. In other words, this is not your average grandma! She sure is funny though. I like stuff you don’t have to think too much about.
- Tom Jane’s son- This kid is maybe 10. I get the feeling he is supposed to be playing a child much, much younger. When the monsters first show up he gets sick somehow. From fear, I guess? It’s never made clear. He’s held like a baby while in a near comatose state for most of the movie.
- The Crazy Religious Lady- Every one of these movies has to have a character who goes crazy and fucks everything up. It’s a rule. Marcia Gay Harden plays a Bible Beater who preaches that the Mist is really sent by God (End Times!). We’ve seen this character before. In this version she has everyone in the store wanting to make human sacrifices within two days. One minute everyone hates her, the next she’s the messiah. Things must escalate quickly when you’re surrounded by killer mist.
- The new woman in town- Good-looking new teacher in town. She’s introduced early via unnecessary eye-contact with Tom Jane, who she has never met. It’s almost like they wanted to go somewhere with that but just never got around to it. Anyway, it’s obvious from the beginning this woman is the female lead and will be making it to the end. Bad actress. Real bad. As soon as the shit starts goin’ down she makes this really stupid face, a face she continues making for the duration of the film.
I could continue. There are a lot of characters, and each is treated like someone we should care about. And I don’t mean that they’re all developed. Quite the contrary. It’s just assumed that the audience will automatically be invested in everyone on-screen. The movie attempts heart-wrenching tragic scenes with characters you’re not even sure you’ve seen before. “Joe’s in a lot of pain. We need to get him some medicine or he might die.” Who the hell is Joe? You can’t just assume we know everyone in this town. I’m not going to shake my fist in anguish over a character who up until the time of their death I thought was an extra. I mean sure, it’s a shame those tentacles dragged Norm away, but I didn’t really know Norm. Was he a good guy? Did he have a family?
I should probably talk about those tentacles too, actually. They show up early, and they look ridiculous. Luckily, you never see them again. In fact, you never see the same monster twice. Every encounter brings new monsters, each stupider than the last! I remember the previews making it seem like you were never quite sure what was in the mist. That was a smart ad-campaign. It gave the movie an aura of mystery. An aura that it definitely doesn’t deserve. The tentacles show up about 20 minutes in, and the rest of the movie is chock-full of monsters all up in your business. There is no mystery here. The movie is a CGI mutant showcase. Tentacles, scorpions, elephants, pterodactyls, spiders, spinners, pinchers, stinkers, the mist has ’em all. Feast your eyes!
The movie ends (do I even have to say SPOILER ALERT!!! here?) with Tom Jane, his son, the schoolteacher, the kick-butt grandma and some other old guy escaping in an SUV (like I said, Ollie didn’t make it) after the mob turns against them for some reason. I think the crazy Bible Beater ends up wanting to kill Tom Jane’s son? It’s not important. The five of them escape and drive until the car runs out of gas. Instead of making any effort to get gas or continue on foot, they suddenly give up and decide suicide is the only answer. This is after they’ve found Tom Jane’s wife wrapped up in spider webs, presumably dead although they don’t check. I gotta say, for a group of scrappy survivors they really give up pretty quick once they actually get a chance at freedom. Jane shoots everyone but runs out of bullets before he can kill himself. Then the army shows up. Looks like the group suicide was premature. Oops!
It will be with a heavy heart that I return The Mist from whence it came. And it will be with an even heavier heart that I eventually purchase it and set it next to I, Robot, Constantine and Congo in my DVD collection. Truly, a shelf full of…….
Films I have loved.