13 May 2010

The Mist

I want to take this seriously. For one, because I've been really interested in the Lovecraft side of horror lately, and this aims for that more than any other horror film yet (beating out The Thing, just). For another, it's got a bunch of people trapped in a building with scary unknowns right outside trying to get them. This is the core structure of my next project. For a third, every forty-five minutes or so it stumbles drunkenly into a moment that, in different hands, would have been astounding.

But this film is god-awful bad. This isn't the aggressive mediocrity of Robin Hood or A Nightmare on Elm Street. This isn't goofy B-movie bad either, which The Thing and The Host both dabble in artfully. This movie... every scene and beat and action and line of dialogue is a misstep. Honestly, the only films I can compare this to are The Room and The Happening, and that is not good company to be in. All three of those films seem to have been put together by alien creatures who've never seen real human interaction, don't quite understand it, hope they can fake their way through. If you told me the Old Ones from H.P. Lovecraft's stories had come from another dimension and wrote this story, and then directed this movie, I would believe you.

So I sat through it, and it was pretty unbearable, but the thing that really kind of upsets me is that it touched on all these great things in a way that kind of sullies them. Monsters in the fog, massive interdimensional tentacly things (how many times can I mention H.P. Lovecraft here, you think?) -- and a pretty cool ending: Alone in a car (we'll deal with plotholes in a moment), surrounded by thumping and roaring and trudging dinosaurian things much, much larger than the boring old space spiders and dragonflies that were annoying them earlier, not enough bullets in the gun and nowhere to run to. Most importantly, the world has forever changed. It's a good place to end a story. But it doesn't make this a good story. This is a bad story. More to the point, this is a bad story that makes it hard to tell another story with these elements, because of guilt by association.

What do any of these people want, at any point in the story? Can anybody point to a single scene where the characters react in believable ways to the action around them? (Even the screaming feels weird and fake in this film.) I don't even want to talk about the way peril comes and goes at the whim of the writer/director and clearly follows no pattern of internal logic within the story. Nothing does. If you can't tell, this kind of left me a little bit angry. I threw up my hands early on and had a hard time trudging through to the end. The characters were painfully artificial. Norton's insistence that it is a "prank" or "lie" to make him look bad is preposterous, to pick one specific early example. Characters in this don't have arcs, they have arbitrary interactions that contradict subsequent or previous interactions as likely as not.

Such a waste of a deeply unsettling ending, a couple of really beautiful shots, and some fairly creepy monster ideas. Such a goddamn waste.

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