DVD Tuesday: ‘The Mist’, ‘Control’

by W. Andrew Powell

The MistHorror films seem to get dumber and dumber with each passing year as studios resort to cheap plots and excessively bad casts. This week if you are looking for a scary movie that has a little bit more to say, check out Stephen King‘s The Mist, which arrives in all it’s scary, misty, greatness. Plus, take in the story of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis in Control; the adaptation of the best selling book, The Kite Runner; or that sci-fi TV gem, Sliders, season four.

The Mist
Over the last three decades Stephen King has become a household name for all things horror. King’s short stories and books have been adapted numerous times, but perhaps none so successfully as writer/director Frank Darabont‘s dramatic visions of King’s far less scary stories The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.

With The Mist, Darabont has chosen one of King’s more classic, frightening tales, forgetting about the drama for a good, old-fashioned horror movie with King’s signature monsters running amok in a small Maine town.

Thomas Jane stars as David Drayton, a slightly famous artist who lives with his wife, and his son Billy (Nathan Gamble). Following a massive storm that knocks over trees and flattens their boat house, David heads into town with his neighbour, and his son, to pick up supplies as a strange mist blows in over the lake. David barely has time to survey the shopping list before the mist arrives, blotting out everything while one man rushes into the store claiming that something in the mist took his friend.

What follows is a tale as much about humanity and survival as it is about trying to kill off the unnatural creatures that arrived with the mist. Populated by King’s usual, eccentric characters, the film is tense, dark, and about as well acted as this kind of horror gets. It also seems like a fresh squirt of blood in the face of all the pitiful horror films that have come out recently.

Jane is surprisingly good as David, which does call for equal portions of crying, screaming, and killing. Marcia Gay Harden on the other hand is the prerequisite religious freak in this apocalyptic sort of tale, and makes you hate her as much as is possible, which does get a bit annoying as the film rolls on.

What stands out about The Mist is not as much to do with the usual horror trappings, including the gore or the scares, but the clever tale of what humanity is like under pressure. The curve-ball at the end may not be entirely welcome by all viewers, but it is easily one of the most memorable endings in years.

Alternative music fans know the name Ian Curtis, and they probably even know a lot of his sad story. As the lead singer of Joy Division, a band that deeply influenced the dark, melodic alternative music of the 80s, Ian was an iconic, troubled frontman with the soul of a poet.

In Anton Corbijn black and white film, Ian’s life gets the full biopic treatment, complete with music, but with a style and tone that is refreshing, sometimes funny, and surprisingly personal. That is heightened both by Corbijn’s intense cinematography, and Sam Riley‘s almost eerie performance as Ian.

Compared to other biopics, Control is not as much about the rise and fall of a man, but how one man fell apart with his failed marriage and failing health. With Samantha Morton as Ian’s wife Deborah, and a strong supporting cast, Control follows Ian through his early years, the formation of the band, his early marriage, and the events that eventually would lead to his death.

Fans of Joy Division will certainly find this film interesting and engrossing, but with such a strong dramatic story, Control is a great movie that will appeal to more than just the music fans out there.

Other new arrivals…

The Kite Runner is based on the best-selling book by Khaled Hosseini and tells the story of two boys growing up in Afghanistan. They are the closest of friends until a horrible incident with a bully drives them apart. We catch up with one of the boys many years later after he has moved to America as he decides to go back and make amends.

Reissues available this week include a special edition of Bonnie and Clyde starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, plus an extended cut of Walk The Line starring Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter.

Television available on DVD…

Sliders: Season Four
In 1995 I became addicted to a TV show that may or may not be one of the cheesiest sci-fi shows to air in the 90s. Sliders starred Jerry O’Connell as Quinn Mallory, a super-intelligent student who discovers a way to open a portal between alternate universes. While testing the technology something goes wrong and Quinn and a couple of his friends are thrown into an uncontrollable trip through those other worlds.

For the fourth season of the show Quinn is joined by the addictive Kari Wuhrer as Maggie, and Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt. They find themselves face-to-face with an evil race known as the Kromaggs, who also have the ability to slide between dimensions. Quinn also discovers that his mother is actually only his step-mother, and his real parents are sliders from another Earth.

The show was certainly trying to be cutting edge and used computer animation to create the wormhole effects, but by today’s standards they’re very dated. Sliders is very campy though and there is something sickeningly catchy about O’Connell and Wuhrer’s delivery of each cheesy line. While not exactly an epic storyline, Sliders is a lot of fun if you can get past the cheap zingers.

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