A review of “The Mist” (2017)

Although it often seemed to show far greater promise, “The Mist” TV series ultimately proved to be pretty average stuff.  I’d rate the 10-episode first season a 6 out of 10.

It started strongly, with real efforts to develop compelling characters, significant tension and a tight plot.  Most of the characters remained compelling.  I found myself liking even Morgan Spector’s protagonist Dad, who I originally thought was milquetoast.  (Spector himself isn’t a bad actor when his character is properly motivated.)  And I found myself really liking Danica Curcic’s troubled, drug-addicted antiheroine.  (She’s one of the best things about the show.)  The young Russell Posner also does some fine work as Adrian.

But the tension that the show created with its eponymous, plot-driving “mist” fizzled toward the end, and just set me up for disappointment.  Fellow monster fans, this is not a creature-feature.  It directly contrasts Frank Darabont’s wonderful 2007 film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, by featuring mostly supernatural threats instead of physical ones.

Our heroes facing the mist are confronted mostly by phantoms, and various iterations of … sentient snoke.  (I’m guessing they are … demons?  Or some other non-corporeal bad guys?  At one point, are we actually meant to see the four horseman of the apocalypse kill somebody?  Huh?)  The antagonists’ portrayal is confusing and poorly delineated, and the scare factor consequently wears off toward the end of the season.  And the preponderance of CGI-smoke monsters suggests a fog machine and a limited special effects budget.

This is complicated by confusing and unexpected character decisions, which I can only suggest result from poor writing.  The viewers are expected to believe that nearly everyone in a small northern town — save for maybe six or seven characters — quickly succumb to elaborate, new-age fantasies in order to turn on one another.  (I’m inclined to think they’d more quickly divide along racial, economic and traditionally religious lines.)

It wasn’t all bad.  There were some character twists that I quite liked, and the show assiduously sets up a lot of interesting subplots.  It also moved at a brisk pace, even if its scattered ending left me nonplussed.  It was occasionally pretty creepy in parts, too.  I certainly tuned in every week.

I think maybe I’m just a little disappointed because the trailer made this show look amazing, and, by the end, “The Mist” proved to be an average viewing experience.

 

 

The Mist

A review of the pilot for Stephen King’s “Mr. Mercedes” (2017)

With all of the (frequently quite poor) buzz about the arrival this summer of “The Dark Tower” and “The Mist,” “Mr. Mercedes” might be the Stephen King adaptation that has slipped under the radar.  And that’s a shame, because the pilot episode suggests it might be one of the best King adaptations ever.  I’d rate it a 9 out of 10.

It really is that good.  The show’s first episode begins what looks to be an intelligent horror-thriller that is surprisingly faithful to King’s outstanding novel.  David E. Kelley’s script is excellent.  After a brutal prologues that sets its plot in motion, the story proceeds with three-dimensional, likable characters who are well played by their performers — especially Brendan Gleeson in the role of the grumpy, retired-cop anti-hero who is harassed by a mass murderer.  (Yes, that is indeed the Dad from 2002’s “28 Days Later.”)  Gleeson is just great — even though I found myself wondering why a retired Chicago cop should have a heavy U.K. accent.

The script even surprises us by being incongruously sweet during its odder moments.  Like its source material, the show effortlessly sets up characters that are easy to like.  (An exchange between Gleeson some kids playing hockey outside his house, for example, was truly inspired.)

The story’s plot-driving horror elements are disturbing, too — both in terms of its grisly violence and its sexual taboos.  This is not a show for the faint of heart.

This also seems like it could be a King adaptation that could easily appeal to people outside his usual fanbase.  There are no supernatural elements to this story, or any tangible connections to King’s sprawling, interconnected “Dark Tower” multi-verse.  (The original novel seemed to show us King trying his hand at a Thomas Harris-type serial killer tale.)

The only reservation I might have about “Mr. Mercedes” is what I am guessing about its pace.  The original novel was quite slow, despite being an engaging read.  After its gut-wrenching mass murder is depicted in graphic detail, the plot moves forward rather lethargically.  The one-hour pilot episode here seemed to mirror that, in its apparent loyalty to its source material.  I predict that viewers turning to “Mr. Mercedes” for a fast-paced horror tale will be disappointed.

I think that’s probably a subjective quibble on my part, though.  I’d still enthusiastically recommend this.

 

 

 

A short review of the premiere of “The Mist” (2017)

I couldn’t help but feel just slightly disappointed by the premiere of “The Mist” (2017).  It wasn’t bad … it just wasn’t as amazing as its trailer made it look.  I’d rate it a 7 out of 10.

The first episode’s horror elements felt rote, rushed and cheesy.  The pre-credits teaser was nearly campy.  Director Adam Bernstein just isn’t Frank Darabont.  (Curiously, each episode seems to be helmed by a different director.)  And what seems like “The Mist’s” milquetoast main protagonist is played somewhat anemically by Morgan Spector.

Still, the show displays some promise.  Instead of rushing straight into its otherworldly-monster MacGuffin, it goes to great lengths to set up some interesting human drama, and it mostly succeeds.  Besides Spector’s ostensibly likable Dad, the characters felt fresh and interesting.  (And regarding that human drama?  I strongly suspect the individual accused of the crime here is not the actual perpetrator.  That’s what the clues are telling me, anyway.  It would be devilishly clever, I think, if his accuser turned out to be the one guilty.)  “The Mist’s” attention to characters here is something of which I think Stephen King would approve.

The show also seems pretty ambitious.  It places its diversity of characters in a number of locations throughout its small-town setting, and a couple are embroiled in some kind of interesting conflict even before the titular mist arrives.  For just a single episode, it feels tightly plotted.

Anyway, if you’re curious about what the mist really is … there is an explanation in King’s source material — and I’m not talking about only the vague allusions in the novella of the same name.  Die-hard King fans know it was further described in his “The Dark Tower” series.  It’s been named as “todash space” by the denizens of one of King’s many worlds — it’s a monster-filled limbo that falls between myriad parallel universes: http://stephenking.wikia.com/wiki/Todash_space.

 

 

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