This The Mist review contains spoilers.
The Mist Episode 1
Spike’s The Mist opens just out of town. A lone soldier comes to in the woods with a faithful dog obediently waiting. He asks “Are you mine? Please be mine,” checks his dog’s tag and his own dog tag to find and memorize their names. In that short exchange, we know that Bryan Hunt (Okezie Morro) is a man with no memory. Because he is in uniform we pretty much assume some kind of military mind fog. Such is the power of visual entertainment in horror and the genre short cuts that come from our long association with it.
Stephen King’s novella The Mist is limited to the point of view of the main character, David Drayton. The son of a famous artist, who wound up doing commercial art after an unsuccessful show in New York, lives in a house on Long Lake with his wife Steffy and his son Billy. The novel starts with the aftermath of one of the area’s biggest thunderstorms in generations. Neighbors clear trees and steer clear of live wires, as a thick mist comes from the north, apparently defying the breeze. Storms are funny that way.
The bulk of the book is set on one location, the Federated supermarket in the center of town, where a cross section of people trying to cope with the unfathomable through menial tasks, like cooking the meat before it goes bad, to mumbling about human sacrifice with Miss Carmody, who runs one of the town’s many antique shops. They are humanity in a fish bowl, watched by creatures from the primordial ooze of some either some other dimension or a military project in the woods called Arrowhead.
The series The Mist expands the point of view to the town of Bridgeville, and adds in dramatic touches and barely controversial backstories. Kevin Copeland’s (Morgan Spector) wife Eve (Alyssa Sutherland), the main character’s wife is booted out of her teaching job for warning teenagers about sex, and the artist husband is ready to leave the town he loves so much and go back to the commercial work he hates so much to accommodate her. Kevin is the ultmate liberal. He even lets his wife drive. That doesn’t mean he’s that great a guy. He doesn’t want to be the bad guy and pushes all the bad decisions on his wife, who had a troubled past as the town slut or something. A generational curse the town wants to push on her daughter Alex Cunningham (Gus Birney), who is raped at a party by the local football hero.
The only witness to the rape is Alex’s GBF, Adrian Garff (Russell Posner), whose father won’t acknowledge him while in makeup but who invokes male privilege during football games as an excuse to stare at players’ bottoms. This small-town controversy, and the slutty family history, feels tagged on for the drama. The town is soon divided, with high school athletes spray-painting “whore” on the Copeland’s driveway and throwing bricks through the window to get the kid’s book author to critique their works, and stern-faced women with gaping holes in their jaws mouthing judgement. You can crack your head on all the normal day to day bullshit, but we know it will all mean nothing when the mist rolls in.
The sets look homey enough, but there’s something off about the furniture, car windows and cabinets. Not horrifyingly off, but things seem missing, and I worry about head room. The mall looks like any other mall in the country. It is such an identifiable image that the terror really hits home in the most mundane way. When a mall fountain goes dry you know something’s wrong.
Natalie Raven (Frances Conroy) is the first one to notice that nature is turning sour when a bunch of frogs go flopping past her. She loses her husband pretty quickly in the dense cloud that covers the town. In the book, Miss Carmodie is a religious fanatic bent on sacrificing someone to her god to keep away the beasties. Here she is a new agey type, more inclined to be one of the wiccans who would be the first to be rounded up for a vain bonfire. But she cuts a magnetic figure thumbing her way through the Mist with her husband’s blood all over her dress like a small town Jackie O.
Chief of police Connor Heisel (Darren Pettie) is the prerequesite bullying alpha male authority figure. His son Jay (Luke Cosgrove) is a spoiled high school star quarterback. The kid can get away with anything, from speeding to rape, and the old man’s whole squad will baby talk him through a perp walk. My money’s on the Chief of Police going nuts and taking it out on the general population. We left the book behind and are in new territory.
Elsewhere, Mia Lambert (Danica Curcic) is being bashed around for now apparent reason. She proves her combat skills by escaping, but he’s a pretty big man to go down so dead so fast from a pitch fork in the belly. Didn’t we learn that a stomach wound takes hours to kill you in Reservoir Dogs? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but he barely even moans. It’s also a missed opportunity for gore.
At first, The Mist, which doesn’t hit town until about the 40 minute mark, appears almost benign. People want to take selfies with it as a background. It’s all fun and games until somebody loses a jaw. There’s more hidden in the encroaching haze than mere creatures. It feels like there is some kind of malevolent consciousness. One of the local cops is scheeved by some roaches in the office. He actually gets shudders thinking about how close it could have gotten to his donut. When he goes out, he’s not shooting, he’s shooing. The cop bugs out completely in the fogged up alternative universe.
The opening episode of The Mist sets up the sunny all-American town up for a deep, dark trip into the shadows.