Frank Darabont has spent much of his career adapting King’s work to the screen, but after The Green Mile, his second King prison-set period piece, it’s no wonder he wanted to get back to basics. Based on an early King novella, The Mist is an old-fashioned monster movie, about a group of small-town folk trapped in a grocery store while the town is enveloped by a mysterious fog, in which lurk man-eating creatures from another dimension.
Of course, just as might be the case in one of the old Twilight Zone episodes that King clearly loves, the real threat are the fellow citizens inside the store, beset by demons of paranoia and demagoguery. Think of the store as a laboratory, a place to study how people behave when thrust together by dire, even apocalyptic circumstances. (Indeed, the movie served as a test run for Darabont’s pilot for The Walking Dead, right down to his casting of future Dead actors Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, and Melissa McBride.
Unlike his polished Shawshank and Green Mile, The Mist is grittier than it has to be, from being shot on grainy film stock instead of pristine digital, to an ending even more pessimistic than King’s original ending, though he made his change with King’s approval. Darabont reportedly holds film rights to two other King tales, which is good. If there’s one thing King needs in a screen adaptation, it’s a director who knows when to overrule him — and when not to.