Review: The latest Stephen King adaptation, ‘The Mist,’ is creepy but lacks fun

Television Critic

A 1980 novella by Stephen King provides the nuts and bolts — and title — for “The Mist,” a summer series beginning Thursday on Spike. Adapted by Danish screenwriter Christian Torpe (no previous American credits, but his series “Rita” is on Netflix), it departs greatly from both the book and Frank Darabont’s 2007 big-screen adaptation. Torpe calls it a “cousin” to the previous works.

But there is still a mist. A mysterious mist.

A soldier (Okezie Morro) wakes up in a forest with amnesia, next to a dog. I will tell you now that this dog is not long for the world, as we know it or otherwise, and if you are anything like me, you will want to heed this warning and begin the series a few minutes in. You will not miss anything important you haven’t already read here.

This being Stephen King, we are in small-town Maine. Strange bugs are making their presence known. Frogs troop out of a lake. Birds swarm over a mountain, ominously. The mist itself doesn’t wait long to roll in, like a carpet. (It is more of a fog, really, though it is not “The Fog,” which is a film by John Carpenter.)


As often happens in horror stories, there is at the center of things a family whose tensions and dissensions will be externalized in uncanny events and will seem in some vague way even the cause of the bad stuff that is bound to come.

Here, we are with the Copelands. Mother Eve (Alyssa Sutherland) is a high school teacher put on administrative leave for displaying a condom in class. (She is all about protection.) Father Kevin (Morgan Spector) seems like he might be a novelist, maybe, since he offers to “write for the paper” or go back to crafting advertising copy if Eve wants to quit her job. He may be something short of “manly,” by local standards.

In any case, they have a nice house by a lake and are in no rush to leave it.

“It is pretty,” Kevin admits of their woodsy surroundings.

“Not if you look closely,” replies Eve, possibly stating a theme.

There is a teenage daughter too, Alex (the quietly electric Gus Birney), who bounces between measured delight and adolescent moping. She loves her father lots and her mother less; has a crush on Jay, the school quarterback (Luke Cosgrove), because there always has to be a quarterback; and has for a best friend mascara-wearing town weirdo Adrian (Russell Posner). Because there is always a weirdo too where fictional teens congregate.

This observation would seem to be supported by the research of environmentally conscious old-hippie neighbor lady Natalie Raven (Frances Conroy, from “Six Feet Under” and the series’ big name). The frogs and birds and bugs spur her to visit the library, where an old, old newspaper speaks of an earlier disturbance and a local legend of “nature turning sour.”

Also in the mix is Mia (Danica Curcic), a woman on the run with a gun. We meet her in a barn full of cows, being beaten by a man we will not have to worry about for long.


Some people like their horror straight-faced, I suppose, but “The Mist” comes with a serious lack of comic relief — characters make cracks, but they are on the whole more bitter than funny. Still, it is a well-made, if somewhat dour, creep show that delivers the shocks and awfulness you would be watching for in the first place and manages some decent dialogue in between. The photography (by André Pienaar) has a magazine-spread quality that compensates for the unfamiliarity of the show’s cast — the camera treats them like stars — and some of the dopiness of the genre (Hey, idiot policeman, don’t go outside to take a selfie.)

As to where this take on King’s text is headed, I can only guess, having seen merely the first hour of 10. (And the cast lists promises new characters ahead, including one played by “Veep’s” Isiah Whitlock Jr.) Typically in King’s works, people prove to be monsters — sometimes alongside the actual monsters — and one of his points in “The Mist” is that civilization crumbles under stress. Still, given how very crumbly many of these characters are to begin with, I wonder whether something quite the opposite might be in store for them. It’d be nice.

‘The Mist’

Where: Spike

When: 10 p.m. Thursday

Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)

Follow Robert Lloyd on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd



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