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]

Murder Party

Didn’t we learn anything from Lamberto Bava’s Demons? Never accept a weird party invite (in that one, it should’ve been even easier to heed that advice too. The guy wandering around in a silver mask in a Berlin train station was one odd dude). In Murder Party, the protagonist, Christopher, is a lonely sad-sack. (How do we know this? The pet cat/single guy speaks volumes, even as he doesn’t)…So any socialization will do, even an invite that instructs him to “come alone.”

Christopher’s wandering around a New York borough when he spots said Halloween party invite on the ground, directions to a “Murder Party.”

And perhaps inspired by his hairy feline, Sir Lancelet, or the boys in Monty Python, he heads to his humble apartment and slaps together a Crusader costume from cardboard and duct tape and ventures out into the night a passable knight.

Chris makes his way to a not-yet-gentrified part of Brooklyn, wanders down an alley, and enters a sprawling warehouse space. It’s there that a group of art students take him hostage, all part of some diabolical plan to maybe turn the taciturn parking enforcement officer into some kind of hipster inspiration for a Death of Marat. The art school crew comes bedecked in Hammer Horror vampire, Warriors-related attire to name a few.

The collective, true “fauves” conspire to make Chris’ death, the life of their art, and debate how they’re going to go about doing it and which medium they’ll choose.

Murder Party shows a real flare for exterior horrors, even as the bulk of the film takes place in one space. There are some choice digs at the cloistered world of modern art, and few punches are pulled with racy banter.

The third act kind of dries up after an inspired start. Still, there’s a lot of fun and for an indie horror, it’s executed oh so well.