As I grow older, I find my taste in horror slowly but surely changing with each year, my taste for finding what could jolt me with the most adrenaline-pumping action in my youth slowly morphing into a preference for things that haunt me, that unsettle me deeply. Whether or not I feel any sort of armrest-gripping terror from it is now irrelevant. I want something that stays with me long after the credits have rolled, that keeps me up at night not because of any terrifying imagery, but because of the terrifying implications of the expert storytelling that horror can have, being more powerful than any ghostly specter could ever be. I recently watched Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure for the first time and found myself genuinely unable to sleep after my first viewing, haunted by the implications of the film’s final two seconds which changed the entirety of the film’s narrative in the briefest of moments. I’ve become rather obsessed with tracking down these moments in film, as they are the things within this genre that I love and are currently keeping me going. Whether that’s because of my current headspace, circumstances, emotional maturity (or lack thereof), it’s the type of horror that butters my biscuit immensely right now. This is why Lionsgate’s newly-minted 4K remaster of Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist feels so fitting. What’s better than emotional degradation framed as a horror film? Two versions of emotional degradation, now in 4K!
After a particularly out-of-season and heavily-damaging thunderstorm hits the small town of Bridgton, Maine, the town struggles to recalibrate without power, radio, or any contact with the outside world. Needing to replenish the food that will inevitably go bad in his refrigerator without power, artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) heads into town to grocery shop with his son, Billy (Nathan Gamble), and next-door neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braugher), leaving his wife, Steff (Kelly Collins Lintz) at home. As they shop amongst many locals recuperating from the storm, including the likes of teachers Amanda (Laurie Holden) and Irene (Frances Sternhagen), assistant store manager Ollie (Toby Jones), and religious zealot Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), among others, the town is beset by a thick, impenetrable mist, shrouding the grocery store in complete isolation. Soon, they find themselves trapped within the walls of the store as they discover horrifying Lovecraftian monsters out for blood amidst the endless mist. As the ragtag group of locals shelter in place awaiting help, they soon find their initially civilized nature beset by denial, paranoia, conspiracy theory-ism, and religious extremism.
The Mist is not the first piece of media to deal with the “Maybe humans are the real monsters” type of storytelling, and it certainly has not been the last in the 16 years since its initial release. However, what makes The Mist so endlessly fascinating, from both the writing from Stephen King’s source material and Frank Darabont’s astute and cruel direction, is how naturally the microcosm of human society comes into place, particularly in the case of Mrs. Carmody and her religious extremism that tears the survivors apart. Harden’s (Miller’s Crossing) performance, the best of her already illustrious career (yes, yes, I know she won an Oscar seven years before this, but you know how The Academy is with horror), follows a meticulously deranged path of “That crazy lady in town always spouting Bible verses that everyone ignores,” and gives her pieces of power and influence little by little, validating her delusions of grandeur one by one, and giving the townsfolk in immense distress more reason to believe her with each bit of misfortune that befalls this seemingly doomed grocery store.
While I had seen The Mist (and read the novella) before this assignment, I had actually never seen the film in the way Frank Darabont had initially intended, which is in black-and-white. Seeking to emulate the drab grayscale vibe of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), Darabont’s monochromatic vision for The Mist really does make all the difference in the final product. The film feels more stark, more jarring, and, yes, more unsettlingly haunting in the film’s black-and-white version included in this Blu-ray release. I would also argue that the black-and-white element does quite a bit to mask some of the more noticeably ambitious CGI effects made on the film’s $18 million budget, particularly with the titular mist itself, but also very noticeably in the film’s extended sequence with the spiders in the pharmacy next door.
As far as 4K remasters go, The Mist is a marked improvement over its previous transfers, even if the film itself isn’t always that much of a looker. Even in its color format, The Mist is a cold, washed out film that doesn’t pop off the screen in any particularly jarring way. What it does have, though, is a palpable visual palette that gives the film its unsettling, inescapable atmosphere, especially with its utilization of extreme lighting techniques as the film cycles between the brightest days and the darkest nights imaginable in the mist. Texture from its 35 mm source material is rich, detailed, and rarely ever noisy, even in some of the darkest scenes the film has. While both cuts look quite good, I did find the black-and-white cut to be the visual standout, if only by a hair, thanks to the immensely impressive shadow work brought out by the film’s HDR and Dolby Vision presentation. It really proves just how much HDR is integral to the contrast of a film, not just its color profile.
What does take on an entirely new life, however, is the film’s brand new Dolby Atmos mix, which is an incredibly impressive showcase for the format, particularly with the often overlooked surround effects that can sometimes go underused in big releases such as this. This is a hearty, fully utilized soundtrack that delivers on all the promises that Dolby Atmos has to offer, especially when paired with the devastatingly atmospheric score from Mark Isham (particularly in the film’s final minutes), capping off a lovely A/V transfer for Darabont’s scrappy little horror film that could.
Lionsgate (taking distribution duties from the now ill-fated Weinstein Company) has put together a nice 4K release that, while not building any further upon the 2008 Blu-ray release from Dimension Films, preserves what was great about it and strips nothing from it in the process, preserving a time when films like this would get special edition home media releases that actually did feel special. Those special features include:
- Commentary by Writer/Director Frank Darabont
- Deleted scenes with optional commentary
- A Conversation With Stephen King And Frank Darabont
- The making of THE MIST
- A Look At the Creature FX
- The Horror Of It All: The Visual FX Of The Mist
- Drew Struzan: An Appreciation Of An Artist
- Digital Copy
Also an option graciously provided to me for review is the Best Buy exclusive steelbook, which, at least in comparison to the standard 4K release, has a cover much more representative of the actual film. It’s a nice, painted image that fits the theme of our main character David being a movie poster designer, but I must stop to think…if there is a character based so clearly off of Drew Struzan, and a special feature on the disc dedicated to Drew Struzan, and an unused poster for the film made by Drew Struzan right before his retirement (that the Weinsteins never used in the theatrical promotion of the film, but did use for the initial Blu-ray release), why would you not use that art as the cover of the steelbook, or even the standard edition, particularly when it’s as absolutely sick as it is.
When people discuss The Mist, they usually are discussing its absolute bruiser of an ending, and while I, too, am one of those people who could talk about the final moments of this film until the cows come home, it’s everything before these moments that qualifies the film to tell you to shove your feelings where the sun don’t shine. This is a masterful work of horror cinema that beautifully balances the horrors of the outside world with those found deep within ourselves, and the lengths that we will go to in order to keep those we cherish safe, no matter what the definition of “safe” might be, and how uncomfortable coming to that conclusion is. All of this is even more heightened by being able to watch the film in black-and-white as intended. I miss Frank Darabont’s work as a film director a lot, and I really hope to see him take up a film like this again one day once the whole Walking Dead well runs dry, but until then, this Lionsgate’s 4K Blu-ray release gives this film a fresh coat of paint and doesn’t excise any of the excellent special features included on its original 2008 Blu-ray release. Best Buy’s exclusive steelbook also presents collectors with a more attractive product than the standard edition, but rest assured, no matter the edition, the product here is a quality release for a truly quality gem of a film.
Available on 4K UHD Blu-ray and limited edition steelbook October 3rd, 2023.
This piece was written during the SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.