Revisiting THE MIST, an Anniversary Celebration

Frank Darabont’s The Mist, based on the Stephen King novella of the same title, turns 10 this month and over at Ghastly Grinning we thought this was cause for celebrating. I did so by revisiting the 2007 film, of course, only this time in glorious black and white. Prefacing this special director’s cut version of the film, Frank Darabont himself gives us some insight on his choice to include a black and white version. In this film introduction, he explains that it had always been his desire to make The Mist in black and white, but that a studio would be unlikely to agree to a black and white project because people are just not interested; brushing black and white films off as things of the past - old fashioned and outdated. This however, is simply not true; there is something magical, something mysterious about black and white film that you just don’t get in color. Darabont goes on to explain that he’s heard people say black and white film “doesn’t look real,” but that is precisely what is so wonderful about it. “Film itself isn’t real, it’s a heightened reality. It’s manipulating light through a lense to create a heightened recreation of reality, and to me black and white takes that even one step further. It gives you a view of the world that doesn’t exist in reality and the only place you can see that representation of the world is in a black and white movie.” He also mentions that this black and white version of the film feels to him like a throwback to the 1960’s era of grainy, pre-color film, referencing the work of Bert I. Gordon, Ray Harryhausen, and the late George A. Romero. After revisiting The Mist the way Darabont had originally envisioned it, these influences were blaringly obvious, and it felt almost like a love letter to those iconic films of the past. 

Going to see The Mist in theaters ten years ago is one of those cinema-going experiences I’ll never forget. I can remember the exact way I felt walking out of the theater after it was over, the shocked silence of all my friends, the looks on the faces of the other audience members. I don’t think any of us had ever experienced an ending like that before and while my friends and everyone else seemed disturbed and upset, there was just something I loved about it. It was one of the many moments in my life that contributed to my love of film and the experience of watching movies in a crowded theater. I had seen lots of films that made me laugh and feel happy, many films that broke my heart and made me cry, but nothing like this. This feeling was something different. It was awful, and I loved it. For the first time, I felt this sense of nihilistic dread, like maybe nothing actually matters. I was terrified of this feeling, but I welcomed it with open arms. I couldn’t believe how sad, how empty I felt - like something had just been taken from me. I was astounded at my reaction and I couldn’t believe a film, a movie could make me feel this way. I remember my friends saying things like, “that was terrible” or “I hated it” but in hindsight I wonder if they were just afraid of the power the film had over them. I know I was, but I embraced it. Before recently going back to revisit The Mist, I worried how I would feel about the film ten years after I fell in love with it. After all, I was just a high school kid back then and there have been more than a few times I’ve revisited films I loved in my youth that have been embarrassing to return to as an adult. I like to think that my tastes have since been refined, but I still hoped The Mist would retain that same weight I felt upon my first viewing. As the film began and David (Thomas Jane) and Steff (Kelly Collins Lintz) watched the foreboding mist creep off the mountains over the lake, I knew I was in for a treat and I was sure I wouldn’t be let down. This ominous scene was so unsettling in black and white; the oppressively foggy mist glowed an unearthly glow, and later on when the monsters emerged, I felt like I had been whisked back in time. I completely understood the vision Frank Darabont originally had for the film; the iconic influences he referenced in the introduction were lovingly apparent. And when that bleak ending finally came around, not only was I flooded with the same set of feelings as the first time I saw it, but I felt like I had fallen in love all over again.

The film, as a whole, is so well done. I feel that it is masterfully and passionately directed by Frank Darabont and the performances all around are wonderful; each of the diverse characters are all so unique and sincerely themselves that I couldn’t help but be sucked into their world. From the oppressively preachy Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) to the meek, yet courageous Ollie (Toby Jones), each character arc is so carefully crafted that when they meet whatever fate awaits them, it bears that much more weight because of how well their individual stories were told. 

I love film. I love the power of film and how deeply it can affect. The Mist is one of those films that will forever remind me of this love for cinematic storytelling. This will be a film I’ll always come back to, to love on its ominous tones, its quirky characters, its perfect one-liners, and the unapologetic gut punch it delivers in its finale. I’ll show it to friends and family and I’ll wait and watch as those final moments sink in, remembering the first time I felt that same weight. 

Happy anniversary, The Mist. You’ll always be special to me and I’ll continue to celebrate you for years to come.