While the unknown often contains great horrors, the known can prove even more dangerous. This is one of the themes of The Mist, an excellent adaption of a Stephen King story by veteran King director Frank Darabont.

At the start of The Mist, the residents of a town in Maine are recovering from a massive storm. Professional artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) is heading into town for supplies, bringing along his young son Billy (Nathan Gamble) and also Brent Norton (Andre Braugher), a contentious vacationing New York lawyer who has sued David in the past. David's wife Stephanie (Kelly Collins Lintz) stays behind to work on the damage to their home.

The supermarket in town is filled with people stocking up after the storm. It quickly becomes a sanctuary as an impenetrable mist comes out of nowhere and doesn't go away. When Dan Munn (Jeffrey DeMunn) runs into the store screaming "There's something in the mist!" he's not exaggerating: The townspeople are soon besieged by a wide variety of creatures, from a giant tentacle to unearthly insects.

The horrors outside are matched by what's inside. It takes almost no time for divisions in the townspeople to become tense. Some poorer locals accuse David of acting like he's better than them. Brent doesn't believe any of the events are supernatural and instead accuses the locals of trying to make the vacationers look like fools. And the fanatically religious Mrs. Camody (Marcia Gay Harden) is convinced that this is the end of days -- a proclamation that seems ridiculous at first but draws more converts as the body count grows and no relief or explanations are in sight.

While The Mist has very effective elements of a "typical" horror movie -- only giving glimpses of the creatures, creating an atmosphere (literally and figuratively) of unknown danger -- its real strength is the human drama of the situation. The supermarket become a cross-section of humanity, with concerned parents, tough bikers, elderly townsfolk, and more joined together -- but more at odds with each other than helping one another. The large ensemble cast doesn't allow for any many individuals to stand out (except for Marcia Gay Harden, who does an excellent job as the harmful zealot who uses the people's fears under the guise of spreading God's love) but they all do an excellent job as ordinary people driven by fear of the unknown -- and each other.

Director Frank Darabont keeps the tension high through realism, having the people acting and reacting as normal people under stress and forced confinement together. He also explains that he envisioned The Mist as a 1960s-style black and white monster movie -- and thanks to the two-disc deluxe edition, he gets his wish! In addition to behind-the-scenes features and interviews with cast and crew, the deluxe edition of The Mist contains the entire movie shot in black and white. I won't say which is better, but including both is an excellent option for the horror fan to choose from.

Creepy, effective, thoughtful, and shocking at the end, The Mist delivers what a fan of intelligent horror wants -- and the black and white version gives them a lot more.

Overall grade: A-

Reviewed by James Lynch

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