Thomas Jane’s book illustrator, David, is visiting the local mini-market with his son and a neighbour when a mysterious mist descends and a lock-up siege begins. Outside, bloodied men emerge from the murk, otherworldly carnivorous CGI insects splatter the shop glass, and as giant tentacles invade the loading bay, a micro-political war for ascendancy in defence tactics breaks out between David, the shop employees, a black lawyer with inappropriate private agendas (André Braugher) and a strident Christian fundamentalist (Marcia Gay Harden).
What’s interesting about Darabont’s frightfest is the care and efficiency he takes ensuring our involvement with those tense – and frustrating – internal store dynamics. There’s a clear sense of national crisis and military culpability in the air – rumours spread of local Defense Department scientific experiments gone wrong and a couple of implicated soldiers shopping at the time are shitting their army boots. But pleasingly Darabont doesn’t overplay either King’s pre-9/11 liberal allegory nor its post-9/11 subtextual implications. Rather he places his trust in old and venerable genre credentials, taken from ’50s paranoid exploitation movies and sci-fi horror films, to which he applies an adroit Hitchcockian attention to detail, and a series of well-differentiated character performances that lets the icky flying beasts, the tantalising human stupidity, the chaos and the primal fear speak for themselves.