Monday, December 3, 2012

Movies to Game By: The Mist

Time for another movie review from the gamer perspective.

Thanksgiving behind us, Christmas fast approaching, weather getting chilly, holiday spirit... what better time for a suspenseful, creepy horror movie?

This weekend I set aside some time to watch The Mist. It came out in 2007, and I'm not sure how I missed (get it? ba-dump) this one.
Maybe I thought it was a remake of The Fog, and purposefully avoided it, I can't say for sure.

I wasn't expecting much to be honest, just some cheap chills and startles on a dark and stormy night.
But I was quite happy to be dished up a lot more than that.

As always, I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum: no more than what you might see in a trailer.

To start, this is a horror movie.  If you don't like to jump, if monsters scare you for weeks, if you don't like creepy, then this won't be for you.  A shame though, since there is a good chunk of philosophy, musing on human nature, religion, and theoretical science, which again, I wasn't expecting but was very happy to find.

As the title suggests, the main event is the encroaching of Mist on a small town, in the Pacific North-West.
As many people head to the grocery store to stock up on supplies after a storm, they find themselves trapped by a mist... and the thing or things that the mist might be hiding.

The tension is very well crafted by the film, and the pace of revealing more about their situation is well timed.
In addition to the slow unveiling of the danger they are in, the sub-plot of the ever-growing threat they pose to themselves from their fear and superstitions is just as interesting and entertaining.

Probably my favorite character was Ollie, a bagger, played by Toby Jones.  He has some memorable lines that I could relate to, which I'll put at the end, under spoilers.

I'd place this movie in the horror sub-genre of 'Apocalyptic Survival'.
Zombies are a popular and constant theme these days, but the world-changing nature this movie presents would make a Zombie Apocalypse look like a stroll in the park.  Speaking of Zombie Apocalypse, three characters in this movie are played by actors/actresses who are in Walking Dead.  Not surprising since Frank Darabont directed and wrote the screenplay.  He is also the creator of the TV series, The Walking Dead.  That should give you an idea, if you follow Walking Dead, for the kind of outer/inner threat balance of the drama and action.

The ending is one of the most bleak yet beautiful I have seen in any movie.
It will stick with you for a long time.
This is helped by the ideal music selected for the final scene: The Host of the Seraphim, by Dead Can Dance.

For the Gamers:

This movie has a wealth of ideas for gaming.

RPG is obvious: ideal for setting tension, as it's an easy thing to keep players in the dark (or mist) about what they see and can know.

For tabletop miniatures, this would make for great scenarios for skirmish gaming.  Any genre from fantasy, historical, on to post-apoc and sci-fi could make use of this idea.  Consider the entire table as covered in mist. Drop terrain out only when miniatures get close enough to see it in the mist. This could be done by a GM or use a randomizer table, or have one player play the monsters and use a predetermined map that the human player doesn't know.  For several players of the humans, they could be in different factions, with a core of minis in their control and the bulk as neutrals which the factions try to win over.  I could imagine each neutral having a "mental state" stat between 1-10, starting at 6 where 1 is calm and reasoned and 10 is given up to hysteria.  Every time a scary event occurs, the mini is attacked, wounded, sees another attacked, wounded or killed it must make a test: roll a d10: if it rolls over it's current stat it goes up one, if rolls under is goes down 1. The worse the scary event, the more the die roll is modified.  The religious zealot player gains more sway over minis that give in to hysteria, while the sane & reasoned player can sway those drifting the other direction.  A leader can spend a turn trying to sway neutral minis: rolling for a test to try to swing their mental state one direction or the other.


-Not a lot, but if you don't like any hints, drop down to the RATING section below.

OK, should be safe to continue.

There are a lot of great creatures in this movie!  I had guessed the source of them before the movie revealed it, but, my mind already jumps to such ideas anyway.  A quick glimpse at an entire ecosystem is given, leaving me wanting to see & know more.

The religious zealot character, expertly played by Marcia Gay Harden, gave a theory that it was the 'end of days'.  While I love horror movies rooted in Christian Apocalypse Myth, I could tell that this wasn't one of them, and that she instead represented a more realistic interpretation of such concepts: she and her ideas are dangerous!

The character Ollie has some great lines, such as "Our species is fundamentally insane."  and when asked, "Don't you have faith in humanity?" his reply is "None whatsoever."


Spoilers off.

To keep in theme with gaming, my rating system is based on the old AD&D armor class system.
Armor Class 0-10. AC0 is some amazing full plate and shield : great armor, difficult time finding a hit with that: you're not going to like the movie. AC10 is no resistance: that common cloth won't prevent a hit.

I give this movie an Armor Class of 9.
It's holding a feeble wooden shield: easy to get past it's resistance and find a good hit.

If you can not be in the same room as a horror movie, I'd drop this to Armor Class 6
If you believe in an imminent Biblical 'end of days' handed out by a wrathful god, and that those who preach it are the best humanity has to offer, I'd drop this to Armor Class 5.
If both apply to you, I'd drop this to Armor Class 1: You will hate this movie.

Reasons: While not the biggest budget, the effects are more than enough to sell the visuals and create the atmosphere that's needed.  The writing and layered plot is deftly done.
This is not the pre-packaged cafeteria serving of horror movie that is the majority of what is offered out there.
The ending alone is worth a couple notches up.

Clips to enjoy! Both have the amazing music of Dead Can Dance: The Host of the Seraphim. 

Warning: This has scenes from the ending, so do not watch if you want to avoid visual spoilers! 

No Spoilers in the one below, just the song in its entirety. Enjoy 


The Dark Templar said...

Great film, but the ending almost killed me!

styx said...

I didn't read it all and avoided the spoilers going to see if Netflix has it.

Looks interesting and very psychological in a horror aspect.

knobgobbler said...

One of my favorite Stephen King stories, and the movie is pretty faithul to its source.
When I read it I got a definite vibe of the Atomic Horror movies of the 50s... which it turns out is what King was going for and what Darabont wanted to push as well... so supposedly there is a black and white version of the film on the DVD, as a sort of 'director's cut'.
The ending differs a bit from the source story but I liked it, if you think about it... the crazy woman has a bit of the last laugh.

Brummie said...

Sounds good. I'll have to watch this.

Michael Awdry said...

Not sure how I've missed this? Thank you for the heads up.

Paul of the Man Cave said...

A very Lovecraftian style story, awesome in concept and well executed. The ending has creeped me out for years and I've never been able to go back and watch it a second time.
Maybe watching it on a long haul flight after a dozen Gin and Tonics had some part in that...!

commissarmoody said...

I think it will make a great concept for a game. Just cover the table with cotton to represent the fog and have vision limited to 6-12 blocks around the groups. And after they pass threw an area, the terrain and things in the back get swallowed back up by the mist.

Scott B. Lesch said...

It's actually supposed to be New England. I know the highway just north of me that was supposed to be where the film ends. I like that Britisher Toby Jones played a good guy for a change as the store clerk with military training.

Scott said...

Sounds intriguing! I may try and find this at the video store... though it will have be a one to watch late, once the wife and kids have gone to bed. Wifeypoos isn't a fan horror...

shintokamikaze said...

That was a good movie, i was surprised how much i enjoyed it, the end was great, not the usual hollywood tripe

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