Wednesday, October 2, 2013

29 Days Until Halloween - The Mist

"There's something in the mist!"

Yesterday, I recommended a black and white classic.

Today, I recommend you watch a modern classic -- in black and white.

Frank Darabont's 2007 film The Mist is an adaptation of the Stephen King shorty story of the same name.

It was Darabont's fourth adaptation of King's work, after The Woman In The Room, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green MIle.

The lesser-known The Woman In The Room is a short film that Darabont directed in 1983, and was given a release in the home video anthology Stephen King's Nightshift Collection: Volume One.

After The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, both expensive, time-consuming, and meticulously-crafted productions, Darabont branched out by directing some episodes of The Shield.  This is experience would prove invaluable when the time came to make The Mist.

Darabont had a difficult time getting The Mist into production.  Critical acclaim aside, his films have never really made money.  The Shawshank Redemption only earned $28,341,469 off of a $25 million production budget.  The Green Mile fared slightly better, earning $136,801,374 after a production budget of $60 million.  But his third film, The Majestic, was a disaster -- earning a mere $27,807,266 off of a $72 million budget.

Ultimately, in Hollywood, it doesn't matter how many Thumbs Up the reviews have.  If the films don't actually make money, the studios aren't going to be eager to throw more cash at you.

In addition, Darabont wrote an ending that he was immovable on.  Studios offered him millions more if, and only if, he changed the ending.  But he refused, and the chances of the film ever seeing producion was slim.

Thankfully, Dimension Films stepped in.  They would make the film with the ending he wanted.  Unfortunately, he was going to have to work with considerably less -- with a budget of only $18 million.

Such a restriction meant that the rich palette of artists, equipment, and schedules that he was used to was gone.

Enter the entire camera crew from The Shield.

Darabont's experience (more like an education) on The Shield was that everything had to go fast.  That's how television works.  Big films have a more leisurely, daresay humane schedule.  It's not uncommon for a big-budget feature film to shoot a mere two to three pages a day.  But in television, it is the fucking law to shoot closer to ten pages a day.

So Darabont shot The Mist like it was television, with a shortened schedule, and with a veteran camera crew that knew how to shoot things fast.

Sadly, the film didn't fare too well at the box office, earning only $25,594,957.  Dimension dropped the marketing ball, maybe admitting they they too were scared of the ending.

But the ending is fucking awesome.

Why?  Because optimism is not for everyone.  Sometimes things don't work out for the heroes.  Some people, and a bunch of filmmakers, can't wrap their heads around that idea.  And maybe that's their lives and respective successes speaking for them.  Life is great.  Life is sunshine and romance and happiness.

Well, pardon me, but fuck you.

Life doesn't always work out the way it should.  And maybe the ending of The Mist is for folks like that.

But I digress...

Here's my recommendation:

The Blu-ray/DVD versions of The Mist have a great special feature.  It allows you the opportunity to watch the film in black and white, the way that Darabont always wanted it to be seen.  Although he got to keep the ending he always wanted (one of the greatest and unflinching endings of all time), the stdio balked at black and white.  No one, particularly the prized teenage demographic, wants to see anything in black and white.

So do yourself a favor.  Rent or buy The Mist on Blu-ray/DVD, and watch the black and white version.  But hey, don't just take my word for it --

Side Note

Stephen King's short story is one of my absolute favorites.  I was so fucking jealous of Darabont getting to make it.  When I was a young and naive film student, I dreamed of one day making the film.  Well, the better made got the job done.

If you want a fun experience, get a hold of this:

It's an audio dramatization of the book, in 3-D!  You listen to it with headphones on, and the story unfolds all around you!

A bit of random trivia: in the audiobook, the character of David Draton is played by the great William Sadler, who also appears in the movie as Jim Grondin.

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