Stephen King is having a summer to remember, with screen versions of The Dark Tower, Mr Mercedes and scary clown classic IT reaffirming his position as doyen of modern horror. Never one to miss a trend Netflix has secured the rights to Spike TV’s 10-part drama based on his 1980 novella, The Mist, about a New England town consumed by a feral fog.
With so many King properties being revived, a hit-and-miss strike rate is inevitable. And while the new take on The Mist (a movie version, by Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont, received acclaim in 2007) is nowhere near as disastrous as Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey’s misfiring Dark Tower, it never quite rises above the mid-tier of King adaptations.
The setting is the author’s usual milieu of a town in deepest Maine, populated by the traditional jocks, nerds, gossips and donut-chomping cops. A mysterious cloud front billows down from the surrounding hills, brimming with invisible monsters and triggering madness in the locals.
Show-runner Christian Torpe, a respected figure in Danish television, was hand-picked by producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein to oversee this reboot. He tries, to his credit, to inject topicality into a well-worn premise. High-school student Alex (Gus Birney) is the suspected victim of a date rape by the star of the football team (Luke Cosgrove). Her mother Eve (Vikings’s Alyssa Sutherland) has been suspended from her teaching job after her sex education classes draw the wrath of conservative parents. One character identifies as gender fluid (though his goth make up is straight out of the Eighties).
David Lynch negotiates the same quagmire of suburban hypocrisy and buried secrets in Twin Peaks. But where his observations are insightful and disturbing, The Mist is more interested in piling one horror movie stereotype upon another. The supernatural fog is preceded by a plague of bugs and frogs; despite warnings to the contrary, characters are constantly running into the peasoup and duly receiving their comeuppance.
Yet the series somehow makes a virtue of its adherence to formula. If The Mist is theoretically a supernatural chiller, it radiates the same comfortable hokeyness as Stranger Things, the Netflix smash that last year wore its debt to Stephen King with pride. A low-wattage, leave-your-brain-at-the-door pleasure is to be had observing the show tick off the tropes. Amid the cheesy thrills and spills, The Mist oozes a familiarity in which many old school horror fans will be happy to be enveloped.