Martin Carr reviews the first episode of The Mist…
Based on a Stephen King novella from the 1980’s The Mist is small-scale paranoia ramped up by small town mentalities. More prevalent now than upon its initial literary release the show establishes stock characters early, drops in an atmospheric sense of unease within five minutes while setting up small town rivalries and broadly written stereotypes.
There is a teacher (Sutherland) put on suspension because of unorthodox methods, her husband (Spector) the local newspaper man who is trying to raise their daughter. Conspiracy theorists living next door and an abundance of testosterone fuelled police, more interested in male posturing than stopping crimes. After a girl has cause to get the local quarterback in trouble the aforementioned ‘Mist’ rolls in with no degree of subtlety causing havoc.
From that point on people quickly lose their minds, are constantly telling each other there is something in The Mist while still going out into it without hesitation. Special effects are sparingly used and effective without seeming unnecessary. Performances across the board are good considering the confines of character these actors have been gifted. Writers for the show have expressed a desire to explore alienation, fear around people with agendas as well as the infiltration of unknown entities that lead to isolationist tactics and segregation.
These are all noble themes to be exploring and so far The Mist has given us economic storytelling, minus needless filler by allowing characters to slowly be introduced. Now trapped in different locations, surrounded by those they have little trust in things will develop further. Distraction techniques familiar to those who have read or watched King before are all present and correct. Wildlife flying in the opposite direction to the threat, older mysterious people with hidden pasts wandering into places of worship and unresolved family issues playing out independently.
These are themes which are familiar in King’s work but are always done well. As Spike only have ten episodes commissioned from The Weinstein Company, things best move along at a pace. So far there has been no wasted time, no needless fluff and after forty minutes we find ourselves in established territory. Segueing into slow burn thriller territory on a television budget The Mist is thematically equipped to explore the present political and social concerns, through its formless force which has swathed Bridgeville in anonymity.
Using a minimal amount of screen time for expositional purposes this adaptation has hit the ground running, coming across as Silent Hill meets Escape from Precinct 13. Hard boiled characters with a liking for firearms and bags of money stashed in tool sheds are present and correct, while our man in the opening five joins the fray keeping evil at bay.