EmptyHaving successfully brought Stephen King to the screen with 1994's "The Shawshank Redemption" and 1999's "The Green Mile," filmmaker Frank Darabont returns to the well a third time but comes up soggy with "The Mist."
Decent special effects aside, the thriller -- about a killer fog that rolls into a Maine community and traps terrified townsfolk in a grocery store as it unleashes a menagerie of otherworldly predators -- is less horrific than it is horribly didactic.
Set extensively in that supermarket, the two-hour-plus gabfest plays like an extended hoary "Twilight Zone" episode gussied up with state-of-the-art CGI, but Darabont's incessant moralizing about the monsters that lurk within proves far less intriguing than those nasty creatures from beyond.
Meanwhile, a capable cast led by Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden and Andre Braugher find themselves fighting another losing battle trying to breathe a little flexibility into their stock characters, who, even by horror movie conventions, come across as more than a little hokey.
Theatrical prospects for this Dimension Films production, which is being released a day ahead of Thanksgiving, are iffy given the current horror movie market, though the younger fright-night crowd might catch up with it on DVD, where they can skip over all the blah-blah-blah and get right to the cool carnage.
Jane's David Drayton is a movie-poster artist and respectable family man who, accompanied by his young son (Nathan Gamble), has gone to pick up supplies at the local grocery store after a violent storm sent a large tree crashing through his front window.
Turns out the storm also has left a spooky mist in its wake that is rapidly encroaching on the entire town as well as harboring all manner of deadly supernatural creatures.
Things aren't necessarily a whole lot more pleasant inside the market, where David finds himself surrounded by a shrill, Bible-thumping zealot (Harden) who holds all sinners responsible for the occurrence and an equally hard-nosed lawyer (Braugher) demanding logical explanations, in addition to other archetypes.
In the process, the store has become a platform for observations about the effects of mass hysteria and the microcosms of society that have a habit of springing up in confined spaces.
That's all very well up to a point, but this is supposed to be a horror movie, after all, and Darabont takes his sweet time before getting around to unleashing all those terrifying tentacles and stingers.
Then it's back to more verbal histrionics in the aisles.
Although comparatively compact by Darabont's usual standards, the picture still runs noticeably long for its genre, even as he tries to energize the prolonged exchanges by darting around the store with a hand-held camera.
Actually filmed in Shreveport, La., "Mist" does well by its special-effects budget, with visual effects supervisor Everett Burrell and creature design and makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero providing the type of large-scale thrills absent in this otherwise stagy effort.
A Dimension Films presentation
Director-screenwriter: Frank Darabont
Based on the novella by: Stephen King
Producers: Frank Darabont, Liz Glotzer
Executive producers: Richard Saperstein, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Director of photography: Rohn Schmidt
Production designer: Gregory Melton
Music: Mark Isham
Co-producers: Denise Huth, Randi Richmond, Anna Garduno
Costume designer: Giovanna Ottobre-Melton
Editor: Hunter Via
David Drayton: Thomas Jane
Mrs. Carmody: Marcia Gay Harden
Brent Norton: Andre Braugher
Amanda: Laurie Holden
Ollie: Toby Jones
Dan Miller: Jeffrey DeMunn
Irene: Frances Sternhagen
Billy Drayton: Nathan Gamble
Running time -- 127 minutes
MPAA rating: R