Friday, 27 June 2008

The Mist Is Finally Coming To The UK, But Oobleck Is Already Here

I can't believe it's almost here at last; Frank Darabont's grueling, nasty, stunning horror classic The Mist is finally coming to UK cinemas, probably on a small release, and almost certainly as a sop to the later DVD release, which should see its reputation grow just as The Shawshank Redemption did (though, of course, for different reasons). I'm so glad it's getting a release at last (it opens on the fourth of July), as I feel like a crazy person raving about it when most people in the UK don't even realise it exists.

A quick look at the foreign box office shows we're one of the last countries to get it, which is nothing new, though I appreciate this is a different case than usual. With such a restricted budget it's been released gradually, and I can imagine a lot of US prints have been recycled and shipped around to keep costs down. That's shrewd, and also helps build that reputation as word gets out about it. There is no way a typical wide release onslaught would generate "boffo" box office for this film. You have to let the audience come to it. Much as I rail against the Weinsteins and their bully tactics, they've got the release of this absolutely right. It's a tough sell, one of the toughest ever, but it will eventually get the praise and love it deserves. Hell, it's already profitable (currently a $50m taking off an $18m investment; not bad), and will only become more notorious, more admired.

I urge anyone who wanders across this blog (and all those who read regularly) to seek the movie out. It's not for the faint-hearted, but it's well worth your attention. Canyon and I made a special effort to see it in the States last year, and it affected us profoundly. A recent second viewing, this time of the excellent US DVD release, confirmed my suspicions that it is a horror classic, though Canyon's reservations about the controversial ending grew. I agree with her suspicion of it, but on a gut level I still love it (apologies for not going into what happens, but I don't want to spoil it even though it's technically been available for a while).

Even if you forget about the ending (which is surely impossible), the rest of the movie is horrific and moving. It expertly ratchets up the emotion, mostly without even showing any monsters. The opening half an hour is a masterclass in generating tension, something I've only seen done really well a handful of times this century (I'd put Neil Marshall's The Descent and Balaguero/Plaza's [Rec] in that short list). I got misty eyed watching it, remembering the brilliantly directed opening scenes of John Carpenter's The Fog, which expertly crank up the fear using stillness and shadow (even if it falls apart later, I still think the first hour justifies a reappraisal of it).

Of course, the horror is not in the mist itself, but in the shop, as irrationality holds sway and turns good people crazy, driving them to murder and insanity. Though I have begun to rail against Guardian journalist John Patterson's obsession with political allegory in movies (he seems to think the primary purpose of art is to make glib comments about current affairs that will eventually fade from memory and date the movie), he makes some good points about The Mist in this interview with Frank Darabont, and even gets in a mention of the similarities to the thoroughly entertaining 1988 remake of The Blob, directed by Chuck "Charles" Russell and co-written with Darabont. And yes, I appreciate that I am putting my irritation with Patterson to one side just because he is giving a shout-out to a movie I love, but then that's the kind of passion The Mist inspires. If you go to that page, check out Phelim O'Neill's comments about the great Drew Struzan. I also have trouble with O'Neill's judgements on occasion, but it's all forgiven now. Wow, this article made me almost love the Guardian like I used to.

So yes, a low-on-content blog post, but I feel it necessary to proselytise on behalf of Mr. Darabont and his bleak, bleak vision. I urge everyone to see it the first chance they get, but take some SSRIs with them, because it will make you despair. In a good way! Imagine a 50s monster movie as directed by Professor Richard Dawkins, except ten times scarier, and featuring some top angsty acting from Thomas "Homeless Dad" Jane (with fine support from Toby Jones, Andre Braugher, Jeffrey DeMunn, William Sadler, Frances Sternhagen, and the astonishing Marcia Gay Harden).

Anyway, speaking of The Blob (which also featured DeMunn as the doomed sheriff of Blobtown, shocking death of the kinds of character you don't expect to see die in a movie, and a panicky siege scene that ends in bloody horror), apparently Blobs actually exist, and they have a name. Oobleck!

In the words of the immortal theme for the original Blob, it creeps, and leaps, and glides and slides across the floor. I have become obsessed with Oobleck. And I won't be properly happy until I have ruined a nice set of speakers with cornstarch and water. I love it so much I'm going to have to use it as a standard of excellence against with all other things will be compared. When experiencing things, this is how I will quantify them; is it as good as Oobleck?

Oobleck is my new favourite deity/non-Newtonian liquid/fourth dimensional apparition. Recognise.

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