Maniac Cop: 31 Day of Horror

#6. Maniac Cop (1988)

maniac copNature of Shame:
Unseen 80’s starring Bruce Campbell.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
Auteur: Romero, Cronenberg, Clive Barker, Terence Fisher, Sergio Martino, Bill Lustig
Anniversary Film (’88)

I’ve never actually seen a Bill Lustig film. What? Yes. It’s all true. I’ve intended to watch Maniac Cop and Maniac in the same way that I tell the dentist, “Yeah, I’ll definitely floss every day.” Which is to say, good intentions and empty promises because distractions like watching Army of Darkness for the 37th time.

I had this one prepped in my Netflix DVD Queue as soon as I read The Cinemonster’s Hooptober 5 requirements. I would finally end my Lustig ignorance.

maniac cop

Maniac Cop Elevator Pitch

A massive fellow in a police officer’s uniform is crushing throats in New York City — this leads the jumpy public to start shooting the boys in blue at first sight. When Officer Bruce Campbell’s wife turns up dead, he’s suspect numero uno and must solve the case to save himself.

maniac cop

Maniac Cop on the Basketball Court, Crushing Throats Without Report

In a parallel universe I could have been a poet or an unlikely rapper. It’s also the most interesting thing I’ll have to say about Maniac Cop. This is good for 31 Days of Horror writing progress, but bad for readership. (I am many days behind schedule and the notion of churning out more than one of these per day makes me wonder where I’m going to find the minutes.) It’s not that I don’t have positive things to say, just that I’m not all that enthusiastic or emotional about any particular observation.

Maniac Cop is not a straightforward A-B-C slasher-type film. It reveals its killer without showing his face. I’m not suggesting that’s a negative — in fact — knowing (but without really knowing) the identity of the killer makes the film more interesting than had Lustig tried to hide his identity. Plus, more Robert Z’Dar is usually a good thing for your movie. Z’Dar, as a real life Golem, always adds a unique, monstrous element that can’t be duplicated with makeup or prosthetics. He’s a frightening mountain of a human. When you show the shadow of your human mountain — even if you don’t show his face — it can only be Robert Z’Dar.

maniac cop

In this slightly unorthodox narrative, Lustig shows himself to be in control of the narrative and unusual pacing of Larry Cohen’s unwieldy script. He sets up his low-budget horror movie with a series of rapid-fire kills to establish menace and then dials it back as he develops some protagonists in Tom Atkins’ detective and Bruce Campbell’s chin. It’s mostly effective, if not frightening or titillating or basically sensical. What he does well is suggest some effective social commentary not often found in your average cheapy horror outing.

Low Budget, with a side of Aspirations

As a result I appreciated Maniac Cop more than I loved it. I found some toss-away stuff to enjoy, if little to love. It’s half slasher, half police procedural and quarter melodrama. (You do the math.) A lack of tonal consistency doesn’t have to be a negative, but in a film as succinct as Maniac Cop the runtime deficiency necessitates greater focus. A sub-90 minute slasher / police procedural / social satire / comedy sounds like a kitchen-sink first draft rather than a feature film. Rather than an ebb and flow of genre convention, Lustig offers heart-attack EKG.

Maniac Cop was just missing a little extras sauce to make these disparate elements come together. And maybe therein lies the pitfall of knowing a film without actually knowing it. I expected more gore and more exploitation elements due to Lustig’s reputation but also because of word of mouth. I’m actually a little surprised it’s received this much attention as a cult film.

The gritty New York City streets and real life struggle of a population seemingly at the mercy their police force. The cloaked visage of Frankenstein (yes, the monster not the Dr. — you try making that possessive flow in the context of your paragraph). The killer with a logical motivation and grueling backstory. The final Hal Needham-esque stunt. All of these elements provide memorable moments and images, but Maniac Cop amounts to a lark, a slice of 1980’s horror that mostly entertains and then disappears into the shadows of the more frightening, gory, and riotous films of the era.

Final Maniac Cop Thoughts

Worth a watch, but reserve some of your expectations. I’m also told that the sequel will deliver more of what I expected out of Maniac Cop. This promise gives me hope. I’m always in the mood for the opportunity to champion a sequel over an original because I grow oh so tired of the “Godfather II is the only sequel to surpass the original” argument. Not only because I disagree, goddammit, but because the horror genre is rife with examples of exemplary sequels that a certain segment of misguided movie fans write off as irrelevant schlock.

It might be easy to make and sell a cheapy horror movie to horror fans (because they will literally pay to see garbage, no offense, everybody) — but that doesn’t make it any easier to make a competent, entertaining fright film. In the end, all these great ideas still have to come together.

Maniac Cop Rating:

Availability:

maniac copSynapse Films has had the decency to release Maniac Cop and Maniac Cop 2 on Blu-ray. It’s actually quite remarkable how good this movie looks considering the budget and era in which it was filmed. Credit goes to cinematographers James Lemmo and Vincent J. Rabbe. Considering I didn’t give them any love in the above blurb, we’ll toss them a mention here in hopes that people are still reading. Good on ya, James and Vincent. It might be too dark overall, but too-dark cinematography hides many ills.

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
#5. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
#6. Maniac Cop (1988)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Disclaimer: I earn rewards from DVD.Netflix.com, which has thousands of movies to choose from, many that you won’t find on streaming services. I do this because the availability of physical media is important. The popular streaming notion of “everything available all the time” is a myth. We are always our own best curators. #PhysicalMedia #DVDNation #ad

Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy: 31 Days of Horror

#5. Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)

abbott and costello meet the mummyNature of Shame:
It’s been a loooooong time since I last revisited the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies. I’ll try to remove my nostalgia goggles.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1950’s

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein proved to be a hit with my daughters so we carried on. Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man became an even bigger hit. (They *loved* the disappearing effects.) Because Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde isn’t on Blu-ray and I didn’t feel like fishing for the DVD in the Complete Abbott and Costello steamer trunk, we next hit up Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, available on The Mummy Complete Legacy Blu-ray from Universal.

Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy Elevator Pitch

A famous archaeologist is murdered. Abbott and Costello become the custodians of a valuable medallion. When the try to sell the thing for some quick cash, everybody in Egypt, plus the Mummy starts coming for them. Maybe. It’s hard to tell if its a Mummy because he’s in a jumper that only looks like bandages and doesn’t show up for a long, long time.

abbott and costello meet the mummy

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, Maybe

Out of all the Universal monsters, I consider the Mummy the most consistently entertaining. The series quickly devolves after the brilliant first entry — Karl Freund’s The Mummy (1932), but even the worst of the sequels (I’m looking at you The Mummy’s Tomb from 1942) maintain a reasonable sense of the original’s mystical paranoia and creeping dread. There’s comfort in predictability.

The catch here is that the mummy has to actually appear in your movie and, you know, occasionally attack people. In Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, you see some Fez hats, Casablanca-looking bars, bazaars, snake charming, and grandfathers of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. None of which really do any attacking. What you rarely see are mummies. At least not until the last fifteen minutes when you get three of them, including Bud Abbott dressed up as one of two bumbling decoy mummies.

In both Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Meet the Invisible Man, the films maintained the basic tenants of their respective horror cycles. Meet the Mummy meanwhile feels like a standard mistaken identity caper. It could have been called Abbott and Costello in North Africa with a Chance of Mummy.

abbott and costello meet the mummy

Are You My Mummy?

The lack of an effective horror backdrop for Abbott and Costello means that they’re comedy has to be the centerpiece, but they’re just not given scenarios that seem to benefit the characters. Or their established personalities (except rigid Abbott as a mummy). Or whomever they’re actually playing. In this entry, they play Pete Patterson and Freddie Franklin, but intermittently refer to each other as Bud and Lou and Abbott and Costello.

abbott and costello meet the mummy

The strongest example of this failure takes place during the madcap finale — which becomes so complicated and labyrinthine that it lost me. That’s right. The narrative machinations of an Abbott and Costello movie left be confounded. The last time I would have watched this film I’d have let it wash over me because Abbott and Costello. On this occasion, I became preoccupied with my inability to follow how or why this person was going after this person and why the mummy cared and holy hell that’s exhausting because why did I really care in the first place?

I don’t know. THIRD BASE.

The routine drags on and on as the movie introduces two dummy mummies to create a kind of Jack Benny in a pyramid scheme. (Pyramid scheme! I crack myself the &%#$ up.) So of course, Lou’s going to commandeer the real mummy that he thinks is Bud. That’s all I need out of this gag. Alas, we get that and a shroud of diminishing returns.

Final Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy Thoughts

I recommend Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy not because it’s essential comedy horror but because it’s a career touchstone for the duo Abbott and Costello. It’s the last of their horror comedies, their last film with Universal (the compilation film The World of Abbott and Costello, excepted) and their second to last film overall. They made one final movie, Dance With Me, Henry, for United Artists in 1956.

Abbott and Costello Meets the Mummy also represents the final stop for the Universal Mummy monster until Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy (1999). The undead Egyptian has always been relegated to the second tier of Universal monsters. Some of that has to do with the limited scope of the mythology. Most every Mummy movie derives from the narrative created for The Mummy in 1932. Hammer Films expanded the monster slightly with their series of films between 1959 and 1971 based on the 1930’s-era Universals.

Despite the limitations, movies featuring the monster prove to be effective chillers, relying heavily upon mood and atmosphere rather than narrative. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy offers neither in equal measure — but it does offer Bud Abbott and Lou Costello and a bittersweet send off to their series of horror comedies.

abbott and costello meet the mummy

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy Rating:

Availability:

abbott and costello meet the mummyUniversal has given you plenty of Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man options. There’s the standalone release. It’s also included on The Mummy Complete Legacy Collection. 

If you’d like a complete collection of the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies, that’s more difficult. There’s the brilliant (but OOP) 28-film Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection steamer trunk. The Meet the Monsters DVD set contains Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which is currently not available on Blu-ray), but is missing Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff because… I have no idea. In order to get that one, you’d need to purchase The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 3 DVD. Got that? 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
#5. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man: 31 Days of Horror

#4. Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951)

Nature of Shame:
It’s been a loooooong time since I last revisited the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies. I’ll try to remove my nostalgia goggles.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1950’s

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein proved to be a hit with my daughters so we carried on. I’d recently watched …Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff so the next logical stop was 1951’s Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, newly available on The Invisible Man Complete Legacy Blu-ray from Universal.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man Elevator Pitch

Boxer Tommy Nelson is accused of killing his manager. In order to evade the law, he takes the invisibility serum and enlists greenhorn gumshoes Bud Alexander and Lou Francis to find the real killer. (Sidenote: Alexander and Francis were Bud and Lou’s middle names.)

abbott and costello meet the invisible man

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man? How would they know?

Universal preceded Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man with five invisible human films between 1933 and 1944. While all existed under the Universal horror umbrella, the Invisible Man films straddled a number of widely varied genres.

The Invisible Man (1933) and The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944) are more or less nihilistic revenge films. The Invisible Man Returns (1940) skews crime-thriller, and Invisible Agent (1942), as the title suggests, takes the form of a WWII spy film. While all of the Invisible Man films include humor, The Invisible Woman (1940) plays the character for straight comedy.

This of course brings us to Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man in 1951 — a full seven years after the last of the Invisible Man series. Of all the Abbott and Costello Meet… films, this feels the least removed from the Universal series proper. Lou’s stuttering and stammering at the invisible man’s antics and Bud’s skepticism and constant attempts to capitalize on their predicament feel like natural tangents, whereas their injection into the House of Frankenstein/House of Dracula universe felt a little more clumsy.

abbott and costello meet the invisible man

This goes against all commonly held logic, but upon this rewatch I enjoyed Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man more than Meet Frankenstein. The running gags — especially Costello’s feud with the psychiatrist — survive extreme repetition, and the central mystery concerning the bumbling hunt for the murderer feels like a fully-baked narrative. Sure, it wanders over into a sports movie comedy for a spell while Lou fights a professional boxer with the help of the invisible Tommy Nelson. Lou gets every opportunity to display his gifts as a physical comedian.

Invisible Effects

Of course, a conversation about the Invisible Man films wouldn’t be complete without at least a mention of the wizards that created the wonderful visual effects. Even now audiences can see how these effects were indeed “special” — at the time of the Invisible Man’s release they must have blown minds. John P. Fulton, John J. Mescall and Frank D. Williams achieved the illusion of disappearing through the layering of two images — a matte process. They combined the principle photography with Claude Rains in a black suit photographed against a black velvet background.

abbott and costello meet the invisible man

For Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Universal used Stanley Horsely, a visual effects technician who worked with John P. Fulton on all but the original Invisible Man. Unfortunately the matte work in Abbott and Costello feels, at times, rather cheaply done compared to the earlier entries. During many scenes, the matte lines were present as was the hazy form of actor Arthur Franz. That’s not to say however that the wonder of the visual trickery has disappeared (see what I did there?)  — just that it’s not as seamless and efficient.

Final Abbott and Costello Meets The Invisible Man Thoughts

Due to some nice series callbacks (Claude Rains is featured in a portrait as the creator of the formula) and more or less easy transition into the series, Abbott and Costello make the most of this monster mashup. Most anyone would tell you that the returns on this unholy pairing of the famous comedy duo and the Universal monsters dwindled with each subsequent entry. I’d like to disagree.

The biggest ding against this movie is that it doesn’t carry over thre Vincent Price Invisible Man tease from the end of Meet Frankenstein. Abbott and Costello Meets the Invisible Man maintains the fun and in some ways improves upon the slapdash pacing and narrative of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Don’t @ me. I’ve got another Abbott & Costello Meet movie to cover and I won’t be quite as friendly.

abbott and costello meet the invisible man

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man Rating:

Availability:

abbott and costello meet the invisible manUniversal has given you plenty of Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man options. There’s the standalone release — which also included an HD code (bonus). It’s also included on The Invisible Man Complete Legacy Collection. 

If you’d like a complete collection of the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies, that’s more difficult. There’s the brilliant (but OOP) 28-film Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection steamer trunk. The Meet the Monsters DVD set contains Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which is currently not available on Blu-ray), but is missing Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff because… I have no idea. In order to get that one, you’d need to purchase The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 3 DVD. Got that? 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1955)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein: 31 Days of Horror

#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Nature of Shame:
It’s been a loooooong time since I last revisited the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies. I’ll try to remove my nostalgia goggles.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1940’s
Anniversary Film

The second Universal horror wave had pretty much run its course by the end of the 1940’s — which made finding a horror film from 1948 a little trickier than I anticipated. Oddly enough I had the same problem with 1938 (because it fell between Universal horror cycles, but we’ll get back to that when I discuss The Black Doll. 

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Elevator Pitch

Bumbling freight handlers deliver boxes containing priceless artifacts to a wax museum only to discover the boxes contained Dracula and Frankenstein. Then the “cargo” goes missing and they’re going to need the Wolf Man to help them sort it all out. Obviously.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein? Just Frankenstein?

At the end of the 1940’s Frankenstein remained Universal’s most bankable movie monster. After 1939’s Son of Frankenstein (the last with Karloff as the Monster), the series devolved into B-movie oblivion. Universal ultimately turned to monster crossovers to breathe new life into the sagging franchise with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), followed closely by House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945).

Meanwhile, over at MGM, the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello had been experiencing their own professional difficulties. In 1943, Costello came down with rheumatic fever after a tour of U.S. army bases and six months later his infant son died when he accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool. Shortly after Costello returned from his sabbatical, a rift developed between the two when Abbott hired a domestic servant who had been fired by Costello. The duo only spoke when performing and only appeared in films as separate characters rather than as a team.

It wasn’t until 1947 when Abbott and Costello reunited properly for Buck Privates Come Home (1947). In 1948, they signed a new contract with Universal. With their careers lagging and Universal’s monster cycle running out of box office mojo, the studio crossovered their crossover and put Abbott and Costello in a monster movie.

House of Abbott & Costello

Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man — the big three monsters from the “House of” menagerie all feature prominently. Bela Lugosi reprises his role as Dracula for the first time since Browning’s 1931 film and Lon Chaney, Jr. again plays the Wolf Man. Glenn Strange lumbers around as the monster in his third feature.

Most believe that Karloff wasn’t approached about being the monster. (Or that he was and just believed the material to be rubbish — famously he agreed to promote the film for Universal as long as he didn’t have to watch it.)

Though the film boasts an ambling structure more reflective of the Abbott and Costello vignette-style of filmmaking, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein also contains a healthy stable of Universal’s well-established horror tropes. The spooky castle, mad scientist shenanigans, full-moon transformations. No monster legacies were harmed in the making of this movie.

Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein has become such a formative early horror-comedy, essential in equal measure to the Universal horror canon and Abbott and Costello’s lasting legacy. It’s therefore easy to overlook the film’s remarkable, rambling narrative. Most remember the classic scenes that open the film as Costello attempts to convey his monster sightings to a skeptical Abbott in the wax museum. Unless you’d just watched the film, however, I’m willing to bet you couldn’t say how they wind up at the “House of Dracula” during the final act.

I just watched it and I’m hazy on the details. The answer is, of course, it doesn’t really matter. The joy of the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies derive from the absurdist vignettes that somehow shoehorn the comedy duo into situations with the Frankenstein monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man and eventually Boris Karloff, the Invisible Man and the Mummy.

The Nostalgic Things that Go Bump

I watched most every Universal horror movie over the course of about two Halloweens, circa age 8 or 9. AMC; back when it was a no-commercial, all movie channel like TCM; showed all of these movies. I diligently recorded each and every one onto SLP VHS tapes. And despite my sincere love for some and nostalgic devotion to others, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein has always held the greatest power to immediately revive the sense of discovery associated with those horror movie marathons.

Of course, you’ll always have those naysayers who’ll complain that Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein is just another Abbott and Costello vehicle and that it has no place in the legitimate Universal horror cycle and blah blah blahbity blah.

Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein is, if nothing else, reverent to the monsters themselves. The stories that had come before boasted very loose or nonexistent logical continuity and Abbot and Costello’s outing does nothing to tarnish the previously established universe where Dracula/Frankenstein/The Wolf Man all occupy the same time and space. In many ways, Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein provides a *more* satisfying conclusion to that story.

Final Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Thoughts

During this viewing I started to pay more attention to the connective tissue. How Abbott and Costello “fit” into Universal horror. Narratively, Bud Abbott wasn’t wrong about his daughter being capable of writing a better script, but a script could never truly reflect what works about the film. Personality and novelty. You can script the relationship between Abbott and Costello any more than you can dictate the emotional attachment to Bela Lugosi or Lon Chaney, Jr. in their monster makeup. These things just are, and neither time nor tide can erode their unlikely place in cinema history.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Rating:

Availability:

abbott and costello meet frankensteinUniversal has given you dozens of opportunities to own Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein on Blu-ray and DVD. There’s the standalone release — which also included an HD code (bonus). It’s also included on The Frankenstein Complete Legacy Collection, The Dracula Complete Legacy Collection and The Wolf Man Complete Legacy Collection.

If you’d like a complete collection of the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies, that’s more difficult. There’s the brilliant (but OOP) 28-film Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection steamer trunk. The Meet the Monsters DVD set contains Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which is currently not available on Blu-ray), but is missing Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff because… I have no idea. In order to get that one, you’d need to purchase The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 3 DVD. Got that? 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add Deep Rising to that list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

The Mist: 31 Days of Horror

#2. The Mist (2007)

Nature of Shame:
Unseen Frank Darabont / Stephen King collaboration that King believed bested his own source material.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 2000’s
Flying Things Will Kill You

Tapping another entry in my Netflix queue for this second Hooptober entry. I fast-tracked some horror titles to jumpstart the horror movie proceedings. I took this next statement right off an SAT test.

Frankenstein : Lightning bolt :: Hooptober : Netflix queue

The Mist had never been high on my Watchlist despite warm buzz — something that speaks to the fact that there’s a heap of movies to watch and only so many hours in the day. The likeliest explanation? Computer-generated curmudgeonry. I’m the old fart on my porch yelling at all the computer generated children to get off my lawn.

the mist 2007 netflix

The other ding against The Mist‘s appeal was that I’d knew all about the supposedly great ending. (I only say “supposedly” because I’d yet to see it — I’m only now about to cast judgment.) I must have osmosed it via movie talk. Now that I’d committed to watching The Mist to help fulfill the “Flying Things Will Kill You” requirement this Hooptober, however, I thought about the potential to once again test my “No Such Thing as a Spoiler” Theory.

Ahem.

I believe — with few exceptions — that a truly great movie will stand on its own, no matter how much you know about it. Like how I eye-roll so hard it hurts every time someone tells me that they don’t want to watch Citizen Kane because they know the ending. Like Rosebud is the whole point of Citizen Kane and there’s nothing else interesting about the entire movie. ARRGGHHH. If you want to know more about my thoughts on Citizen Kane, I’ve got an entire podcast to which you can listen.

It’s the different between The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Others (2001). And now I’ll commence a 12,000 word side-by-side analysis of the twist finales of both these films to prove conclusively my theory that one is great and one is nonsense.

Or I’ll just carry on with a few hundred words about The Mist and let us all get on with our lives.

The Mist Elevator Pitch

New England locals become trapped in a local supermarket when a mysterious fog rolls through town dealing uncertain death in the form of Lovecraftian beasties. While the innocents endure the siege, the community splinters into warring factions as the citizens come to terms with whatever lurks out there in… the mist.

the mist

Did you say… the Mist?

I did, and there’s lots of it. It’s not the creatures in the mist that make The Mist a movie to watch. You’d think that the mist would be the main attraction in The Mist, but you’d be wrong about the mist. Though I have to admit that the creatures take on fascinating and unexpected forms… in the mist.

(I hear that repeating a page’s keyword works wonders for online search rankings. So let’s all try adding “…in the mist” to the end of every sentence to see if it works as well as “…in bed.”)

Unfortunately the creature effects are once again a mixed bag of CGI and practical effects techniques. Considering, however, that the film boasted only an $18million dollar budget I’m prepared to give them a passing grae — especially considering that Darabont, inspired by The Night of the Living Dead and pre-color Harryhausen (who clearly inspired aspects of this production), had intended to release the film in black and white. MGM balked at a wide release for a mainstream black and white horror movie (GOD FORBID). Meanwhile, Darabont still prefers the black and white version of The Mist. 

I watched the color version only. I’m sorry to say I’ll be unable to weigh in properly on this debate. I’m sure, however, that the creature effects would have worked so much better in black and white and that color only calls attention to their binary birth canal… in the mist.

Speaking of the “Flying Things Will Kill You” theme of this particular Hooptober.

Society Deconstructed

As I suggested a moment ago, you’ll enjoy the horror elements inherent to a movie about unseen monsters picking off innocents trapped in a supermarket. The monsters come in tentacled, winged and gargantuan varieties. You’ll remember The Mist not because of the monsters but because of the horror of a Marcia Gay Harden scorned.

As the townspeople (Thomas Jane, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Andre Braugher, etc.) face the uncertain haze lingering outside the supermarket, they’re faced with a series of conundrums. At first they must choose whether or not to believe in the danger lurking outside. Some people said things, but those people seemed certifiably bananas, so… As more and more people wind up dead, the survivors are forced to reconcile their reality versus what’s actually in the mist. Characters come to represent the varied means by which individuals approach the unexplained.

Some choose to take the mist and the monsters at face value. It’s a test of survival. This is an unprecedented problem; but still we must find a solution. Others respond with fervent denial. Logic and reason state that none of this can be happening. And then there are those that derived a very peculiar lesson from the book of Job.

Christian zealot, Mrs Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), interprets the mist and the monsters as the wrath of God. When more and more people become paralyzed with fear after having witnessed events that cannot be understood by the human experience, her legions grow in size and fervor. Anyone who dares confront the mist further tempts the wrath of God. They must be stopped otherwise God will further unleash his judgment upon all of us.

Marcia Gay Harden takes it upon herself to consume all of that supermarket scenery. She delivers an over-the-top performance to make Nicolas Cage blush and put any belligerent televangelist to shame. Too much? Hardly. By the time she’s screaming at her faithful to do away with the sinners amongst them, she’s become so full of her own power and conviction that anything less would fail to convey the seething hate and monstrous rage befitting a character symbolic of the world’s wrongheaded religious zealotry.

The Monster of The Mist

While The Mist presents a traditional war between a small band of survivors and the uncertain monstrous outside, the real threat to survival remains the monster inside all of us. The human tendency to destroy as it is brought out by fear and anger and thirty-foot tentacles devouring a stock boy through the bay doors.

Fear and our reaction to fear can become our greatest strength (courage under unimaginable circumstances), but also represent our greatest human weaknesses.

The Mist lays down a scathing indictment of the worst tendencies of human nature and organized religion cloaked in atmosphere and mystery. Ultimately the mystery behind the mist never becomes clear. Some viewers might find that lack of closure off-putting because there’s a substantial side-plot that concerns who or what caused the mist.

The characters want to know because they want someone to blame. The notion of “fault” or “blame” becomes a central preoccupation. They want to deal with the crisis by punishing those at fault, but that doesn’t ever matter to the narrative itself. Punishment does not cause the mist to recede nor does it improve their current situation. The Mist offers this darkest side of human nature as the real monster of the film.

Final The Mist Thoughts

You’ll notice I didn’t specifically mention the ending. True. While I don’t believe Spoilers! would tarnish your experience, I do believe that a comprehensive discussion about the ending would direct your reading. So watch first, and then we’ll discuss.

Frank Darabont had first tried to make a movie out of The Mist as his directorial debut. He instead went ahead with The Shawshank Redemption. His interest in the project dates back to the 1980s. It’s easy to see why Darabont felt so passionately about The Mist, a story he considered a throwback to Paddy Chayefsky and Shakespeare. It’s every bit as accomplished as The Shawshank Redemption. Only the latter film raises your spirit while the former tosses it into a blender and sets the machine to devastate.

 

The Mist Rating:

Availability:

the mist blu-ray

Alliance released a two-disc Collector’s Edition of The Mist back in 2008 that contains both the color and black and white versions of the film.

Buy The Mist on Blu-ray from Amazon.

 

 

 

 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add Deep Rising to that list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

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A bl-g about classic and not-so-classic movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick