“The Mist” turns 15 this week, and Frank Darabont’s cinematic take on Stephen King’s novella has developed quite the legacy since it first debuted to mixed reception. In retrospect, the film has a whole lot going for it, from a prescient subplot about the dangers of religious zealotry to a pitch-black ending, the depressing likes of which few other horror films have ever tried to achieve. It also has lots of cool, freaky monsters. The creatures of “The Mist” spend most of the film hiding in the mysterious eponymous clouds that suddenly swallow up a Maine grocery store, but in one memorable sequence, they appear in the flesh to terrorize the people locked inside.
In honor of the film’s anniversary, /Film’s Eric Vespe has compiled an oral history of “The Mist” featuring various separate interviews with cast and crew members. Along the way, he spoke with both writer-director Darabont and star Nathan Gamble about the scene in which all hell broke loose. The complex night shoot required plenty of special effects to create locust-like insects the size of our heroes’ arms and a flying prehistoric-looking beast that bites chunks of flesh off of unsuspecting survivors.
The scene is long and brutal, with a huge number of extras, gory effects work, and several stunts. And apparently, coordinating the whole thing was nearly as chaotic as the final product.
‘It Was A Runaway Horse’
“Instead of looking at the storyboards, I was just making it up as I went along,” Darabont says of the sequence. He adds, “It was a runaway horse, but we held on and we got the scene in the can. And I was very, very proud of that.” The filmmaker says the shoot was “a week of this madness,” but even then, it was apparently a tighter-than-usual turnaround as required by the film’s budget. As he tells /Film, the director had the choice between making the film with a roomier budget but changing its bleak ending, or working at breakneck speed with a small budget but keeping its story intact. Darabont chose the latter option, which meant he ended up with some scenes like this one, where storyboards became an afterthought.
Child star Gamble, who played David Drayton’s (Thomas Jane) doomed son Billy, also recalls the chaos of the night shoot, including a memorable bump on the head.
“There’s that one dinosaur-ass-looking thing that is stomping its way towards me and then Tom’s character pulls me aside at the last second and then it gets blasted away by Ollie,” Gamble recalls, referencing Jane and Toby Jones’ character, Ollie Weeks. “Well, when Tom picked me up, he tripped on the edge of an aisle and me and him fell,” he revealed. The actor says he “banged off of the sections of the aisle” and hit his head on the ground — not hard enough to make him cry, he insists, but still enough to bruise.
‘It Would’ve Been A Genuine Horror Film On That Set’
While on-set injuries can be no joke, Gamble found the humor in his, as he says his mother was elsewhere on set (probably, he says, watching “Gilligan’s Island”) and would’ve been there in a heartbeat if anything dangerous had happened. “My mom, God bless her heart, she’s not a helicopter mom,” he shared, noting that she “doesn’t want to ever feel like she’s getting in the way and she’s never wanted to ever tell me how to do what I need to do.” But if he’d actually been seriously hurt in the stunt, it would’ve been a different story. “If there would’ve been blood, heads would’ve rolled, for sure,” he said, joking that “it would’ve been a genuine horror film on that set.”
Luckily, that wasn’t the case. Gamble was totally okay, and the final product still turned out as thrilling and harrowing as intended. It’s a lengthy and impressive sequence filled with indelible images, like that of a woman’s throat swollen with insect venom, or a man engulfed in flames running across the store’s aisles. It looks like madness incarnate, so it’s no surprise that at times, it felt a little bit like it, too.
Darabont admits that for all the chaos that came with the tight schedule, he still looks back fondly on the night-time attack shoot. “Man, I had fun,” he tells /Film, “as much as it was incredibly exhausting and stressful, because you’re shooting a movie in half the schedule you’ve ever shot a movie on.”
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Author: Valerie Ettenhofer
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November 22, 2022