WARNING: SOME SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR THE MIST
I’ve read an acceptable amount of H.P. Lovecraft, and am in the midst of reading more to support this blog and my horror street-cred in general. Usually not one to complain about antiquated writing styles, I find his writing (and his dialogue in particular, ESPECIALLY when he tries to write in dialect) to be excruciating. The man, does not get it done for me when it comes to prose.
The mythology he inspires, however, is really where it’s at. That’s why I’m always grateful to see other directors’ and writers’ interpretations and homages to that maddening netherworld of the Old Ones. Neither of the movies I’m going to discuss are interpretations of specific Lovecraft stories, but the heavy Lovecraftian influence couldn’t be more blatant. But first…
Undead Party Crasher American Imperial Stout is THE most appropriate choice for a Lovecraft homage film. Not only is it distinctly American, but um…duh. “Undead Party Crasher” is a pretty ideal pairing with tales of invaders from another dimension. On the nose there is a heavenly baked-goods smell and on the palate it’s like whole wheat pancake batter. The aftertaste had some of the same mouthfeel as when you’re smoking a medium-quality cigar (but with not of the acridity). 10% alcohol is kind of a lot to handle, but so is the idea of monsters from another dimension completely destroying the world as you know it.
Film Numero Uno: In the Mouth of Madness (1994, John Carpenter)
The first film was a hell of a fun ride, and I enjoyed every last minute of it. It may be Sam Neill’s best performance, at least of the ones that I’ve witnessed. He plays a “hard-boiled” skeptical investigator that gets hired to track down pop-horror writer Sutter Cane, who has dropped off the map while writing his latest manuscript. In the meantime, the world is going absolutely batshit over Cane’s most recent book. And despite the direct line drawn in the “news-flashes” about the violent, mass hysteria and his books, never is it even suggested the books be withdrawn from the market.
But then again, I’m never one to suggest banning books.
So Sam Neill almost immediately starts hallucinating when he begins to read Cane’s books about “Hobb’s End”, after being chided into it by Cane’s foxy-when-her-glasses-are-off editor for not being “sophisticated enough” for them (??). These hallucinations seem to be helpful though, because he manages to figure out where Cane is by randomly tearing the covers off the paperbacks and making a “Beautiful Mind”-map of New Hampshire on his wall. I missed how this brilliant idea occurred to him, but I’m probably not the only one. By that point, knowing little about the film, I realized that this was Lovecraft homage and not Stephen King homage. Why? Because the map was not of Maine.
Anyway, into the wilds of New Hampshire they go. And cross a FUCKING covered bridge, and they both experience a Rosemary’s Baby style acid trip of some kind. And see this weirdo on a bike.
It only gets weirder after the cross the covered bridge. Apparently Sutter Cane has opened up the portal for the cross-dimensional beasts to destroy humankind. Because…why not? Also, maybe in some kind of wink to Mr. Neill’s participation in The Omen franchise, we get a whole passel of hell-hounds. Dobermans (Dobermen?) this time, though, in lieu of rottweilers. In any case, there’s some meta-narrative in here wherein we are not sure if our hero is actually a real human being or a character written into existence by the species-traitor, Sutter Cane. Also there’s some creepy children. And when are creepy children not awesome?
Movie the Second: The Mist (2007, Frank Darabont)
Kay SO, this one was much less of a rollicking good time, but it did provide some good “suspense-porn” as some like to call it. Because Frank Darabont and his cadre of Walking Dead actors like to make people feel alienated and sad. And sure, the CGI was aaaaawful, but if you’ve got a good imagination and you let the acting lead the way, this is worth watching.
So this time, it isn’t a fiction-writer’s tippity-tappity-typing that ushers in the apocalypse. It’s the military industrial complex, which I think is slightly more plausible (right?). They’ve been performing experiments with alternate dimensions which results in a RIP A HOLE IN THE TIME SPACE CONTINUUM OH GOD. So all manner of tentacled, spiky, winged and long-legged creature finds its way into the world and begins to prey on human flesh and give some pretty vicious stings. And lays their eggs in peoples’ chest cavities.
IN MAINE of course.
What would it be like the other way around I wonder? If the creatures ripped a hole in the wall between worlds and then we humans started pouring in. We’d probably give them lots of diseases and eat all of their spider baby children. Gross gross groooooooss.
The story focuses on a large group of people trapped in a supermarket and how quickly they descend into head-on-stick batshittery. Marcia Gay Harden had a marvelous performance as a religious zealot that gets everyone frothed up for human sacrifice. She did a marvelous job of making me want to punch her in the face. Also, Toby Jones (who I recently watched in the bizarre Berberian Sound Studio) forwent his usual meek role and became a total frickin badass and amazing shot with a pistol.
The ending of course was shocking and it really REALLY pissed off my husband. It also gave Connor nightmares. Without giving too much away, it was kind of a cross between a Twilight Zone ending and the ending to Night of the Living Dead. In fact I’d be very surprised if that heavy influence didn’t just force its way into Darabont’s mind along with the theme of a besieged and isolated group of assholes.
If you want a long day with a lot of conflicting emotions, run these back-to-back. The first one on its own is a fun ride, but both are worth enjoying with a drink and a wink-and-nod to Mr. This-is-so-horrific-I-could-never-explain-it-to-you-but-I’m-going-to-go-on-for-50-pages-anyway Lovecraft.