For most of its existence, the Internet Movie Database’s Top 250 movies of all time list has been led by Frank Darabont’s “The Shawshank Redemption.” In this age of online polling, when bots are used to inflate the scores of comic book movies, there is something reassuring about a 142-minute movie about friendship and hope outranking the likes of “The Dark Knight” and “The Avengers.” Based on the Stephen King novella from the anthology “Different Seasons,” the film boasts a unique, yet confident rhythm that pins the viewer to their seat even if it’s their fifth or sixth time through. It certainly helps that people know there’s a happy ending coming, but that’s still a long haul for a movie set almost entirely in a prison.
The memory of arriving at that perfect runtime proved valuable to Darabont when he found himself struggling with the pace of his third King adaptation, “The Mist.” Though the film bears some logistical resemblance to “The Shawshank Redemption” (if only because it is also mostly set in one confined location), Darabont concludes this grim tale of tentacled monsters stalking the terrified residents of a small Maine town with one of the most brutal narrative gut punches in movie history. If he didn’t want audiences revolting against him, he needed to get them to that finale sooner rather than later. He was also contractually obligated to deliver a movie that ran under two hours.
Alas, with a Thanksgiving 2007 release date looming, he found himself stuck at 130 minutes. So he reached back to the test screening reaction to his debut feature for inspiration.
Red Had To Get Busy Leavin’
In Eric Vespe’s 15th anniversary oral history of “The Mist” for /Film, Darabont recalls “The Shawshank Redemption” running a tad long. The solution was to cut five minutes out of the final act, where the recently paroled Red (Morgan Freeman) finds himself stuck in the same rut as his former prison mate Brooks (James Whitmore). The openness of the outside world is discomfiting to him. This led to a moment where Red breaks down during his shift bagging groceries at a local store.
As Darabont explains it:
“[W]e go […] into the market, where we see [Red] bagging, and he asks permission to go to the bathroom. [A]nd there’s this sequence where it all just closes in on him, and he has a panic attack, and he runs to the back of the store and into the men’s room and he goes into one of the stalls, he closes the door just to feel the walls around him. It’s cool stuff.
[W]e were just taxing the audience’s patience, waiting for [Red to get to the tree], with something they already knew. There was no new information. There were new scenes, but no new information. Oh man, we couldn’t get back to the editing fast enough. It was like pulling a thorn out of our butts, losing that five minutes of movie, and then the movie just flowed beautifully from there.”
Don’t Make Moviegoers Wait Too Long To Have Their Hearts Ripped Out
Darabont and his editor Hunter Via knew “The Mist” needed to lose ten minutes, which was confirmed for them when they screened their 130-minute cut for Darabont’s filmmaker pal D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia”). But while they knew something had to go, it wasn’t quite as simple as excising one scene.
Ultimately, Darabont got the movie down to 110 minutes (presumably sans credits, since the film’s final run time was 126 minutes). “It was a lot of rethinking the pieces,” he says. “You know those Chinese puzzle things where you’re moving something here, moving something there, and suddenly more of it’s falling on the floor. That was a thrilling process. I mean, at the end of the day, there’s literally nothing I would put back in if I had the chance.”
15 years later, “The Mist” may not be anywhere near IMDb’s Top 250 list, but it is every bit as masterful as “The Shawshank Redemption.” It’s also a movie you don’t need to revisit every so often, unless you’re a huge fan of feeling utter, unremitting despair.
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/Film – ‘Slash Film: The Shawshank Redemption Deleted Scene Frank Darabont Couldn’t Cut Fast Enough [Exclusive]’
Author: Jeremy Smith
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November 22, 2022