‘The Mist’ 4K Ultra HD Review – Frank Darabont Mastered the Art of the Stephen King Movie

Stephen King adaptations have always been hit and miss. Before Mike Flanagan came along, there was one filmmaker who could always be trusted with King’s material: Frank Darabont, whose first foray into filmmaking was a short adaptation of “The Woman in the Room.” After making a name for himself as a screenwriter with the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and The Blob, Darabont made his feature directorial debut with 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption and followed it up with The Green Mile in 1999.

His thus-far final King adaptation came in 2007 with The Mist, which finds a group of locals trapped in a grocery store while an ominous fog shrouding mysterious secrets envelopes their quaint Maine town. A microcosm of any community, the supermarket is a canny setting for a contained thriller. The divisive mob mentality and pigheaded self-righteousness that manifests under pressure is even more poignant in a post-Trump world.

Sensible artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane, The Punisher) becomes the de facto leader, but The Mist‘s strength — like much of King’s body of work — lies in its rich characters. Darabont assembled an adept cast to bring them from the page to the screen: Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River) as a dangerous religious fanatic, Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) as David’s tightly-wound neighbor, Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead) as a new teacher in town, and Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger) as the store’s assistant manager.

Other notable patrons and workers include William Sadler (The Shawshank Redemption), Jeffrey DeMunn (The Walking Dead), Frances Sternhagen (Misery), Sam Witwer (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Alexa Davalos (The Man in the High Castle), Chris Owen (American Pie), Buck Taylor (Cowboys & Aliens), Melissa McBride (The Walking Dead), and Nathan Gamble (Dolphin Tale) as David’s 8-year-old son.

Darabont agreed to make The Mist on a smaller budget of $18 million in order to retain his controversial ending. While some consider it needlessly bleak, King himself has praised it as wishing he wrote it for the original story. Eschewing the carefully calculated aesthetic of his earlier work, Darabont worked with cinematographer Rohn Schmidt (The Walking Dead, The Shield) to adopt aggressive, handheld visuals. Evoking cinema verite-style documentary footage, the immediacy of the camerawork reinforces the on-screen tension.

From Lovecraftian tentacle monsters to hordes of giant insects and beyond, the film’s creatures are the cumulative efforts of three luminaries in their respective fields. Swamp Thing co-creator Bernie Wrightson served as the concept artist, working closely with special effects legend Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead, Kill Bill) to design the practical monsters. Cafe FX, who were sought out based on their work on Pan’s Labyrinth, was employed to handle the visual effects.

The Mist has received a new four-disc set from Lionsgate that includes both the theatrical and black-and-white presentations of the movie on 4K UHD and Blu-ray. Darabont himself prefers the greyscale version, which evokes 1950s monster movies and helps conceal some spotty visual effects, although the frenzied camerawork feels anachronistic in black and white. Both 4K discs feature Dolby Vision/HDR and Dolby Atmos sound.

Darabont’s insightful audio commentary alongside co-producer Denise Huth touches on blending on-location and soundstage filming, working with major digital effects for the first time, embracing a different visual style, and adapting King. The filmmaker also points out nods to The Thing, Monsters Inc., The Twilight Zone, The Manchurian Candidate, and more. In “A Conversation with Stephen King and Frank Darabont,” the two masters of their crafts engage in a delightful, 12-minute chat about the nonnegotiable ending, a jump scare that got King, and their past collaborations.

“When Darkness Came: The Making of The Mist” is a 37-minute featurette that pairs insight from Darabont, King, cast, and crew with behind-the-scenes footage. Focal points include the unconventional shooting style and the bold ending (which was withheld from cast members who were not involved). “Taming the Beast: The Making of Scene 35” chronicles the six-day shoot of the most complicated scene of the movie: an elaborate sequence with practical and visual effects, action, and fire stunts. “Monsters Among Us: A Look at the Creature FX” and “The Horror of It All: The Visual FX of The Mist” are complementary featurettes looking at the collaborative relationship from Wrightson’s concept designs and Nicotero’s practical work to Cafe FX’s visual effects.

“Drew Struzan: An Appreciation of an Artist” finds Darabont and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro paying tribute to Struzan, the humble artist behind some of cinema’s most iconic posters of all-time (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, et al.) who contributed art for The Mist and inspired the character of David Drayton. Other special features include: eight deleted/extended scenes with optional commentary by Darabont, who explains why each moment was excised, from tightening pacing to streamlining storytelling; a trio of brief webisodes each highlighting a different set piece (“Earthquakes,” “Burn Man,” “Franny, the Flamethrower”); and three trailers for the film.

The Mist‘s audacious ending often dominates conversations about the film — and understandably so, as it still packs a gut-punch 16 years later — but it wouldn’t be as powerful without the potency of the journey that precedes it: captivating source material, bold direction, frenetic camerawork, a stellar ensemble, inventive creature work. Darabont has yet to helm another feature, and while The Mist would make for a felicitous swan song, the new 4K serves as a stark reminder of how much his prowess is missed.

The Mist is available now on 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital.

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