Sunday, 19 October 2014

Film #19: 'The Mist' (Black and White)

Late with this post today. And, technically this trailer isn't even the one for the film I watched.
And this is also a film I'm rewatching, so, yes, Sunday is a fine day to coast!

'The Mist' is Frank Darabonte's movie based on a Stephen King novella about a mist that arrives after a storm, engulfing a town, and bringing a strange series of monsters hidden within it.

First, I want to share the worst thing ever written about this movie, from the Netflix UK & Ireland description of it:

"Just a typical day at a small town grocery store -- until a hungry horror descends. Stay inside. It's shop or die."

Netflix hire people specifically to watch and categorize movies, and after watching this movie that person decided to ignore 95% of what the film is about and reduce it to a really sh*t joke.

Luckily, while I was groaning at that stream of bollix I remembered that I owned the Blu-ray of this movie, which comes with a black & white version.
Frank Darabonte always intended this movie to be released in black and white, but - from his own introduction to the movie - it was a hard sell with the studio. So, 'The Mist' was released in colour and the 'black and white' version released with the DVD/ Blu-ray release.

And if he says that this is the version to watch, who am I to contradict him?

Alexander Payne, the director 'Nebraska' famously hates the colour version of his movie - a movie which I did love and left me grinning for a long while after it ended. So, seeing things like this must really piss him off:

I actually can't imagine watching that film in colour. It would definitely seem wrong to me.

So, Darabonte says that the black and white version is his definitive director's cut and it deserves to be.
I've seen 'The Mist' a few times, but watching the black and white version just feels more bleak somehow. The titular mist looks all the more ominous and scary as it rolls across the screen in a white cloud, freakishly bright white, for something foreboding and threatening.
Much of the real threat and tension from this movie comes from the interaction of the people trapped together in the supermarket. which isn't really affected by the transition from colour to b&w; but it all works very well as claustrophobia and fear sets in driving people to make decisions and align themselves in ways that they can't escape.

Literally nothing in the 'b&w' version is different, no scenes are added, none are cut. The only thing changed is the colour scheme. How does that make a difference? 

The sets are so well lit, so stark in contrast, that the feeling of horror and tension just ramps up a bit. The scene in the pharmacy in particular just looks like a black room lit only on the light of the torches until the spider creatures appears and the white webbing and their pale hides appear.
The CGI in particular also benefits from the b&w transition. Most films make the mistake of thinking that "really good CGI" is photorealistic and indistinguishable - it's not. Taking some of the CG textures and colours away leaves them blended into the film much easier, whether that was Darabonte's plan is questionable, but it works!

If you have seen this film before, I would say to watch it again in this version, it subtly adds something to the film which makes it all feel new.

If you haven't seen it before, watch it. Either version, colour or 'black and white' make for an atmospheric horror that's way above the standard "ghost story/ jumps scares" or "gore porn" that gets mass produced as horror. The characters' reactions to the monsters and horror set this film apart from other horrors for me, so it's a solid recommendation all round.

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