(Release Date: April 10, 2008)
Darabont's The Mist ended on a bleak note, one that had about as much to do with the Novella's ending as I have to do with Ivanna Trump's fur purchases. Darabont's ending removed a lot of the questions and ambiguity of King's original ending, while leaving one major question hanging out there like John Holmes: "What the hell?"
Needless to say, after that film, the dream that somehow an accurate film version of The Mist might be made was still very much unfulfilled. That is until one Kevin Karstens contacted me, offering to submit a DVD of "The Mist - The Novella Cut".
To fairly view (and review) The Mist - The Novella Cut, one must first understand what this is. This is a labor of love from a true fan of the original story. Like me (and a lot of you out there) Karstens wanted to see a version of The Mist that was much closer to the Novella. To this end, he re-cut the footage he had available (that being Frank Darabont's final cut on DVD) to better reflect the storyline of the novella. He shot almost no new footage (and none with the on-set actors), he had no alternate cuts, he was able to interpret only from what he had on hand. To be fair to Darabont, there wasn't a hell of a long way to go to make this work. To give credit to Karstens, he did go the extra mile.
Nor did Karstens do this for any illicit reason... or for profit. Karstens is happy to share his cut of the film... but only with those who send him a scan of their receipt proving purchase of the actual MGM/ Dimension DVD.
The result is a much more satisfying and accurate experience for fans of the Novella. Yes, The Mist - The Novella Cut more than lives up to its name, delivering a very, very close depiction of King's story, using only the available footage. Obviously this is most easily seen in the ending of this film. Interestingly, one doesn't have to wait for the ending to see and enjoy the differences.
The tale of artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane), his son Billy (Nathan Gamble) begins and progresses much the same way as it did in the 2007 film. However, Karstens wisely adds the same textual introduction ("This Is What Happened...") that kicked off the book's narrative. Further, he breaks the film into the same chapters (wherever possible) that divided and enhanced the novella. This both interests and baits the viewer in each act, while also preparing the viewer for Karstens' use of a textual epilogue, also straight out of King's work.
For those of you unfamiliar with either version of The Mist, the Drayton family is only one in a small Maine town affected by a freak storm that leaves power outages, destruction and closed strip clubs in its wake. What follows is a thick wall of white fog that creeps across the water and finally into the town itself. It's at that point that David, Billy and their tag-along neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) find themselves trapped in the local supermarket with a good cross section of the town.
But on the not-so-good side, you've got those folks who so quickly forget that the threat isn't inside among their friends, but outside waiting for them. These include William Sadler's Jim and David Jensen's Myron, a couple of blue-collar working stiffs. These guys and the whole gang just like them might not be much more than a pain in the ass, except for the flame-fanning religious nut named Mrs. Carmody (well played by Marcia Gay Harden).
Hardin's role is the one most notably altered in the Novella Cut (though the "love subplot" between Sam Witwer's Wayne and Alexa Davalos' Sally is completely excised). Short of re-casting the role with Mrs. Roper, Karstens changed as much of the foul-mouthed, "evil Christian" as he could, while still preserving the completely psychotic menace that Carmody eventually becomes in both the Novella and the 2007 film.
Still, the real threat should have been what was outside, within the Mist itself. The Mist, in fact, has brought with it a broken menagerie of Monsters from somewhere else, all of which, it would seem, have a desire to find out what people taste like. Let me tell you, in both versions, these things are scary as hell, but somehow in the tight re-edit they work just a little bit better. The film comes off as much more claustrophobic, tense and mysterious, making one want to keep looking behind their chair until the credits roll.
Before those credits roll, however, we get an ending as close to King's as Karstens could get. Yes, it's still bleak, but there is much more of an opening here for anything to happen. This ending may strike some viewers as too open-ended, as if the story wasn't truly over. But that's the thing... King's story was left dangling on just such a question mark and by including King's final paragraph as a well-placed and subtle finale, the feel of the novella really does come through here.
In many ways it would be easy to call this the film Darabont could have or should have made. However, Darabont's final cut isn't Karstens' cut, meaning Darabont's had the Hollywood finishing and the resources to edit from all the footage (not just a pre-selected 127 minutes. Therefore Karstens' cut does have a few issues that, to be fair, must be pointed out. For one thing, there is a digitized pixelization visible that comes from the video transfer. This persists throughout the film's runtime, however it stops being much of an issue as the story becomes more engrossing. Further, the very fact that Karstens had only Darabont's approved 127 minutes to edit from means that there are scenes from the Novella that still don't appear in The Novella Cut. A couple of points in which Carmody uses the word "Bitch" still feel a little off, but what recourse did Karstens have? A small part of this now more enigmatic ending is hindered by the necessity to tie up certain loose ends with the existing footage. Thankfully, it all still works.
All told, this version works better than the theatrical release. Still, out of respect for the original film (and Karstens most certainly does respect Darabont's cut), The Mist - The Novella Cut contains the Darabont ending as a Special Feature, so compare away. It's still more than open to interpretation which is better, which is bleaker. Take your pick. After all, to a great degree, this will boil down to one simple word: "Taste".
Visit the Karstens Creations website for more on The Mist - The Novella Cut. There you can view the new ending and request a DVD copy of the full film in color or black and white. Those of you curious about Kevin Karstens' cut would be well served to view the full film, not just the revised ending. It works best as a complete piece. Three and One Half Stars out of Five for The Mist - The Novella Cut. This experiment shows how a skilled editor can make a fine companion piece, not to replace an existing film, but to enhance a favored work of literature. Check it out for yourself... and if your name happens to be Stephen King, I'd be interested to know what you think!
They may be poorly thrown together, misspelled and comically forced, but that's because only I can edit them!
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