The Mist

Interesting fact: “Mist” in German, means “crap.” Luckily, unlike many a Stephen King adaptation, this one is anything but.

The Mist is a loving tribute to the 60s creature feature, with Frank Darabount (who directed the King-lyThe Green Mile/The Shawshank Redemption) helming a character-driven insider-outsider dynamic set in Maine (of course) against the backdrop of a grocery store, of all places.

Clean up in aisle 3!

While the tentacles in the promotional collateral betray a more nautical feel, it’s actually Lovecraftian pterodactyl thing-ies that scare the bejeezus out of the townsfolk (some of them, that is. There’s a fire and brimstone preacher lady, played by Marcia Gay Harden, who won’t be swayed and is determined to usher in Armageddon).

The plot is full-on 60s sci fi: not only are there weird and wonderful creatures, there is a strange and secret military experiment being conducted. Camo trucks are driving through town by the dozens. What in god’s name is going on? This is compounded by a strange and bizarre, not to mention scary, weather system, enough to make Al Roker crap his pants (Google that and “White House” if you want some unpleasant reading).

The system is hiding the aforementioned creatures, and dueling groups of townsfolk hunker down in the store, using their wits to do battle with one another, and the creatures, who reproduce themselves by bursting forth smaller creatures from human cocoon cavities, a la Alien. Grossly good stuff.

Toby Jones is once again excellent as the grocery manager, and unlikely hero, along with the more stoic doting dad Thomas Jane. Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) is well-cast in the thankless role of resident skeptic/creature luncheon meat.

Stephen King’s vision is both cynical and revelatory, taking potshots at pomo and religious thinking alike.

The Mist, however, has an ending that is seriously downbeat, and would be even by the very dour 70s. Some viewers take umbrage with what they see as a narrative cop out, but it actually adds to the gritty nihilism not too dissimilar from Night of the Living Dead.

***1/2 (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast of The Mist]

Friend Request

The bottom of the compost pile when it comes to horror subgenres, is undoubtedly social media horrors.

And Friend Request is no different, a rotten stinker predicated on a bullied spectral spookie who hijacks Facebook pages with gross content and torments her assailants.

But I Know What You Did This Summer this is not as the connection between the revenge seeker and the victims is barely there.

Laura is an uber-popular coed at a made-up California College populated by central casting types who chronicle their lavish lifestyles in Malibu, or some such place. Laura’s got 800 friends, 800 more than goth cliche loner, Marina, who sits in the back of psych class and pulls her hair out (maybe frustrated by the lack of quality slasher films tackling social media). To her credit, Laura reaches out to the outcast, only to be cyber-stalked and abused for her troubles.

Marina begins sending disturbing content to Laura’s friends, and posting snuff material as Laura (including a self-immolation vid), getting her expelled and making her the college pariah. Laura enlists the help of a hacker friend, who finds that the backend code is some witchcraft mumbo jumbo.

Meanwhile, turns out there’s little record of Marina even attending the school (maybe Felicity Huffman was lending a helping hand).

While the horror genre reflects cultural anxieties and has done so with aplomb in the past, whether it’s creeping conformity/communism in Invasion of the Body Snatchers or rampant consumerism of Dawn of the Dead,  however to date, no legit offering has adequately dealt with how social media is warping our minds, disrupting our concentration and making us depressed.

Whether it’s #horror, iMurders, Unfriended, or the best among them, Cam (which is a compliment so back-handed it should be used to slap a bitch) none can get out of their own way to tackle broader social implications of Pavlovian manipulation.

** (out of 5)

[Check out our Friend Request podcast!]