Author Stephen King is known as a master of horror with books like The Shining and It to his name, but TV adaptations of his works haven't always worked well. Now, Spike is trying to produce a suitably scary small screen version of the classic novella The Mist, and the first trailers gave the impression that the show could be either fantastically dark and dramatic or totally campy. As it turns out, this new version of The Mist could be exactly what horror fans are looking for out of a TV project. Not quite Stephen King's novella or Frank Darabont's movie, this Mist goes in its own direction in a pretty wonderful way.
The Mist picks up in the conservative small town of Bridgeville, Maine, where everybody seems to know everybody else and their dirty little secrets. Eve Copeland (Alyssa Sutherland) is a teacher whose progressive outlook on sex education gets her into trouble right off the bat, but her husband Kevin (Morgan Spector) is supportive. Unfortunately, their daughter Alex (Gus Birney) is less supportive of her mom, and the family is turned upside down when a night of fun goes terribly wrong. They run afoul of Sheriff Connor Heisel (Darren Pettie) and his teenage football superstar son Jay (Luke Cosgrove).
The Copelands' environmentally aware neighbor Nathalie Raven (Frances Conroy) is particularly attuned to what's going on around Bridgeville. When a mysterious mist rolls into town, the prisoners of the local jail begin to look for a way out before they're trapped by fleeing officers. Amnesiac military man Bryan (Okezie Morro) and the manipulative Mia (Danica Curcic) must work together, along with Kevin and Alex's friend Adrian (Russell Posner). The characters quickly discover that it's no common fog that has covered their town, and it becomes clear that they're in for the fight of their lives against what lurks in the mist.
While the first episode kicks off with a decidedly Stephen King-esque teaser that illustrates quite quickly and fairly gruesomely that the mist is not to be messed with, the real horror action doesn't pick up right off the bat. Instead, The Mist takes the time to establish and develop the relationships between the main characters and the dynamic of the town as a whole, which is practically a character unto itself.
Creator, executive producer, and writer Christian Torpe has crafted in Bridgeville an atmosphere that at first seems harmless (if somewhat stagnant) but quickly proves that the slightest pressure brings out the ugly sides of many of the citizens. Given that the Copeland situation already gets everybody worked up, it's easy to imagine from the outset just how poorly they might react to... well, a supernatural mist filled with monsters.
At this point, I feel I should clarify that the monsters of The Mist aren't campy B-movie monsters that are as laughable as they are obviously fake. The creatures early on mostly lurk in the fog off-screen until they lunge for the kill. The way The Mist handles its monsters is reminiscent of how Jaws handled its villain, as we don't see the monsters lumbering across the screen, but we do see what they're capable of. Perhaps even scarier were the reactions of the civilians, who will pretty obviously not react well to the mist. Anarchy is already threatening to break out by the end of the first episode.
I just about fell out of my seat when one victim came hurtling out of the mist in a bloody mess, and that's the sign of a project that knows how to build suspense. The Mist is obviously a horror series based on a Stephen King story, so everybody who goes into it is going to know to look out for murders in the mist. I knew something was going to happen when it did; still, I jumped... and then immediately rewound to watch it again. The combination of natural with supernatural makes The Mist feel like a mix of The Walking Dead and Dawn of the Dead, with a dash of Jaws and more than a little touch of Twilight Zone.
Of course, this Spike series clearly doesn't have nearly the budget of Jaws or The Walking Dead, and we'll have to suspend our disbelief pretty thoroughly if we're going to watch all ten hours of The Mist. A lot will undoubtedly depend on the performances from the cast. Frances Conroy is obviously fantastic as Nathalie Raven, whose interest in ecology and fervent religious faith make her somebody worth watching (and watching out for) once the mist rolls into town. Morgan Spector, Alyssa Sutherland, and Gus Birney don't really get to stretch their acting muscles too much in the beginning, but given that the mist seems destined to bring out the best and the worst of the folks of Bridgeville, we can count on seeing more of their reactions as the series progresses.
Darren Pettie shows promise as the town sheriff who clearly isn't all he's cracked up to be. Hopefully the show will go all out on exploring the aspects of humanity when they face the terrifying and unknown. The Lord of the Flies-esque moments of The Walking Dead have been incredibly effective, at times even more so than the zombie twists. The Mist has proved that it can bring the frights when it comes to monsters; only time will tell if it can do the same with the people of Bridgeville. Given what we see of certain characters early on, I'm optimistic.