I watched this over a month ago and just didn’t feel like writing about it. I thought it was good, as I had when I first saw it in theaters, but I also though “Eh, I don’t have anything to say about it.” But it has stayed with me a little bit and percolated, and now I not only have some comments, I’m ready to say it’s one of the best horror films of the past few decades.
The movie concerns a mist that blankets a Maine town one day, bringing with it a variety of monsters. A cross-section of people are trapped in a glass-fronted grocery store, and the main action of the movie, as they fend off the monsters and strategize what to do, becomes an exploration of different ideologies and eruption of simmering personal tensions. There is a fundamentalist Christian woman, who interprets it all as God’s will, and becomes increasingly violent [on behalf of God] against those, such as our hero, who want to take action on their own behalves. I actually had to fast-forward through some of her screeds, as they were so irritating. So it’s an intelligent film, using the monsters as a vehicle to explore a number of different viewpoints, and is largely filled with character work, as the histories and tensions of people in town come to the surface and are worked out one way or another.
The monsters are also completely off-the-wall terrifying and there are numerous good scares. One of my favorite moments—really the primary thing I remember about my first viewing—is people viewing what seems like a small mosquito buzzing outside the window, until it’s revealed it was actually far away, and is, up close, actually about two feet long! The movie has an excellent cast, and is led by Thomas Jane, who was unexpectedly wonderful upon re-watch. The movie also has what we’ll call an “extremely uncompromising” ending, which can overwhelm discussion of the entire film, and is very good, and brave, but let’s not overlook the achievements of the entire film leading up to it.
What I like about this movie is that, in a much more serious way than most horror movies are willing to go, the very worst thing has happened and there is no hope that things will get better. It’s about facing that situation and the different ways of dealing with it. Our hero, David, is trusted with care of his son during the crisis, which places an additional burden on him [in addition to becoming de facto leader to the sane half of the store inhabitants], and puts him in about the worst situation he could possibly be in; being solely responsible not just for himself, but a young life. When we later find out what happened to his wife, well, we know that this movie ain’t fucking kidding. Here, the world is an awful place filled with horror, other people are just as bad as the worst monsters, and things are not guaranteed to work out for the best. Oh, and organized religion is sometimes used as an excuse for the worst abuses. Have a nice day!
It makes you think that other horror movies can be bleak, but often temper their darkness with humor, or irony, or sensationalism, or some other distancing. The other thing is that while this movie is trafficking in imaginary monsters, it places just as much emphasis on human decisions, specifically poor, or misguided human decisions that can cause more lasting damage than the worst monster. Sometimes it can be more assuring for someone to finally acknowledge that the worst really can happen, there really is no hope, and it’s not all going to be magically fixed because you’re a good person.