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The idea of an unorganized lockdown is scary, but for some reason it’s even more harrowing when portrayed in black and white.
Amid the social distancing recommendations being instilled across the country, we at the Progress Times have been encouraged to stay home. Reading, writing and movie/television-watching have become the only acceptable entertainment options in my small social circle, and as a homebody, there are no complaints here.
This week, when visiting my boyfriend, we sat six feet apart and watched The Mist, the 2007 adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same name. I had never seen the film before, only hearing of its merits in passing, but I was familiar with the imagery of a large group of people unwittingly blockaded in a grocery store.
The Blu-ray release of the movie includes a version in black and white, which Director Frank Darabont describes as the closest to a “Director’s Cut” of The Mist an audience is going to get. The choice to set it in black and white was his, and he noted that the main reason they shot in color was because the studio feared audiences would feel the format was out-of-date, or “unreal.”
The idea of being “unreal” was exactly what Darabont wanted to capture in The Mist, and he said that he advocated for a black and white film because of the heightened reality it sets up in the audiences’ minds. When experiencing it for the first time as Darabont intended, that otherworldly alienation evoked a sense of old-fashioned 60’s horror (see George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which he references), and it did so to the benefit of The Mist’s quality.
Some of the performances in The Mist may seem campy or over exaggerated in color, but in black and white they shine, lending themselves to those old-school monster movies King cited as inspirations from his youth. The viewer is taken into this world, seeing it through a lens that we are both familiar and unfamiliar with – and that unfamiliarity adds to the fright.
Darabont clearly has a propensity for King’s work, having adapted The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile in the 1990’s. However, The Mist is the first adaptation that King himself became “genuinely frightened” by, and in these times I believe he feels the same.
The Mist centers around a group of people, both residents and out-of-towners, trapped in a Maine grocery store during an unforeseen disaster. When Dan Miller (portrayed by Jeffrey DeMunn) bursts out of “the mist” with blood running down his face and shirt, we are thrown into the action with all of them, anxious to close the glass doors, helpless to what lurks behind them.
Thomas Jane, another King veteran, leads as David Drayton, a father determined to protect his son in the midst of the chaos unfolding around them. He acts as the main conduit for the viewer, behaving as rationally and carefully as he can despite an inability to predict how stir-crazy everyone is about to become.
The timing of this viewing was apt, considering the self-quarantining of the country and world as the novel Coronavirus, another unseen terror, sweeps the globe. I was reminded of the inability to “fight” it physically, and the wildly-varying theories and conspiracies born from such an unprecedented situation.
Most take it seriously, but others chose to look at it with a more casual visage – sound familiar? The waiting everyone had to endure was also reminiscent of our current state, and the idea of looking to the government for help when even they don’t have all the answers made for a frightening evening.
How it unravels is the juiciest part of The Mist, but to avoid some major spoilers I won’t give any more away. If you’re looking for a film to add to your quarantine watchlist, I recommend The Mist – especially in black and white (if you can get a Blu-ray shipped).
Film: The Mist
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted – Anyone under 17 requires accompanying parent or guardian) for violence, terror and gore, and language
Available to rent on Amazon Prime
Dir. and Adapted by by Frank Darabont
Based on The Mist by Stephen King