Let me begin by saying I'm not a Stephen King fan beyond the fact that he's a Red Sox fan. Sometimes he writes really original and entertaining stories and I give him all the credit in the world for those few, but most of the time he falls into the category of a genre writer, churning out so many Goosebump-esque tales RL Stine would be jealous. The Mist is one of those stories.
I went into The Mist not expecting much and found myself pleasantly surprised. The cast was sprinkled with familiar faces beyond the Punisher (Thomas Jane) as apparently alpha male David Drayton. The Shermanator is a bag boy. Marcia Gay Harden is a religious local. William Sadler (Death from Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey and the villian from Die Hard 2) is a surly local. I was excited. I thought this movie might be going somewhere. Then the Shermanator bit it.
Wanting to prove their worth, Sadler, the Shermanator, and another local ignore the warnings of the Punisher and attempt to open the door to the loading dock of the grocery store within which they're trapped. Their goal is to unclog a meaningless generator. Giant tentacles reach under the door as the door rises and latch on to the Shermanator, ripping pieces from him until finally ripping him from the arms of the Punisher and the assistant manager of the store, one of the few likable characters in the movie. The death isn't so much tragic as it is pathetic. It is also the catalyst for the conflict of the story.
What happens over the rest of the film is a supposed allegory on the Hobbesian nature of man. In other words, when push comes to shove, we don't cooperate, we fight. The first divide is between the Punisher and a New York lawyer who thinks the hicks from Maine are playing a big joke on him. He and a few others walk into The Mist never to be seen again. Then Marcia Gay Harden's character kicks into gear.
If you're a Christian, stay away from this movie. Your faith is drug over the coals as if this movie was made in the days before Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, and FoxNews. Harden immediately starts crying Revelations and the End of Days. She demands blood and sacrifice and after the pretty brunette is stung by a giant bug and her face bloats up killing her (always a tragedy), people begin to follow her. It isn't long before they turn on the others in the store, turning on a metro-sexual military young man, even though he's a locale, because The Mist came from the government's mysterious Arrowhead Project in the mountains. After Harden's turn in this movie and Law and Order SVU, it's apparent she is good at playing stereotypical right wing nutjobs, but at least in SVU she was an undercover FBI Agent trying to bring down some Neo-Nazis. Here she just proves how freedom of speech in a crisis isn't always a good idea.
To be fair, it isn't until the final moments that the movie loses most of its worth. Over the large majority of the story, it is a paint-by-the numbers horror movie, complete with stock characters and conflicts. The ending, however, reminds us that every likable character in the movie is killed and that the Punisher, the supposed hero, has left behind everyone he cared for the entire movie in an attempt to do what's "right" instead of doing what's right. I'm all for a tragedy and/or a tragic hero, but when the tragic flaw is just being a dumbass, it leaves you thinking, "Well, at least I know I could easily survive a situation like that one."