MOVIE REVIEW- Co-'Host'?: Sci-fi flick not to be 'Mist'

Take that, South Korea! Challenging The Host for Creature Feature of the Year is The Mist, which proves once again Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) does Stephen King right.

After a freak storm a number of Maine neighbors– and a few "out-of-towners" (i.e., anyone who wasn't born there)– are trapped in a supermarket by Something Outside. They quarrel, they form factions and they get killed off one by one, usually for doing something stupid.

A mist has rolled down from the mountain– you know, where the Army has a base whose activities are top secret– and covered the town. Dan Miller (Jeffrey DeMunn) runs in, bleeding, as the mist reaches the store, babbling about "something in the mist" that grabbed someone.

What that something might be is suggested when a few men go out to the loading dock and open the door a few inches, enough for giant tentacles to come in and get grabby. Later, assistant manager Ollie (Toby Jones) notes, "The entire front of the store is plate glass," and soon that glass is covered with what look like giant locusts, then bigger, stranger flying creatures that attack the locusts. A few of each get into the store, wreaking havoc. Yet other creatures, including web spinners and a giant bug that causes earthquakes when it walks, lurk outside.

David Drayton (Thomas Jane), who's protecting young son Billy (Nathan Gamble), is the designated hero. The audience knows he'll do the right thing, thus anyone who disagrees with him is wrong. New third grade teacher Amanda Dumfries (Laurie Holden) becomes Billy's de facto babysitter while David's doing heroic things. If Mrs. Drayton, who was waiting at home, doesn't survive, she may do as a replacement.

David's next-door neighbor, litigious New York attorney Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) thinks the town is making things up to play a joke on him, and even when he's convinced there's real danger he insists on leading a group of fellow machos outside to face it.

Jim Grondin (William Sadler) can't think for himself, but he'll go along with anyone, as long as they're wrong.

The greatest danger to the larger group is Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), a self-styled Old Testament prophet who sees the onslaught as God's punishment for sin in general, including abortion and stem cell research specifically. She knows right away, "It's death out there.  It's the end of days." As their fear increases, more and more people follow her.

There's always time for young love, though not much in this case. Sally the bagger (Alexa Davalos) flirts with local soldier Wayne Jessup (Sam Witwer). Frances Sternhagen is on hand as an old schoolteacher because-– well, she's always nice to have around, even if she's not essential to the plot.

The story combines two classic sci-fi/horror staples, secret military projects, and science fooling with things man was not meant to tamper with.

Darabont lets things develop slowly to build suspense between action highlights and changes the ending from King's original novella so readers and non-readers can be surprised together. To his credit the movie doesn't feel as long or as cheesy as it is.  f you like this kind of thing, this one's not to be "Mist."