Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #199

Stephen King News From the Dead Zone

There’s Something in The Mist

Bridgeville, Maine is a pretty little town.

Unless you look closely, that is.

Spike TV’s THE MIST, based on a story by Stephen King, premieres Thursday, June 22 at 10 pm ET/PT.

For one thing, it seems to have a major bug problem. Bugs are one of the main motifs in the first episode of the new series The Mist, which premieres on Spike TV on June 22, the first of ten 1-hour episodes. Heck, the first thing we see is a full-screen shot of a spider, and then we see the spider crawling across a guy’s face. Seriously creepy.

Of course, there’s going to be a mist, and it’s going to have bad stuff in it, but even before that unnatural event occurs, the town has problems. The first episode starts off with a mystery—a soldier (Okezie Morro) who wakes up in the middle of a forest, unsure of his identity, with no idea where he is or how he got there. He’s the first character to encounter something terrible in the encroaching mist, and he becomes a veritable monster-shouter, trying to convince people that SOMETHING’S COMING. Except he seems a little crazy, so he’s ignored.

[Watch the official trailer here]

Then we are introduced to the people of Bridgeville who will be important to us in the coming weeks. This is Bridgeville-before. The status quo that will be disrupted. We meet the Copeland family, Kevin (Morgan Spector), Eve (Alyssa Sutherland) and teen daughter Alex (Gus Birney), along with Alex’s best friend, the morose, goth-ish Adrian (Russell Posner). We meet the town sheriff, Conner Heisel (Darren Pettie) and his star quarterback son, Jay (Luke Cosgrove). We meet a mysterious woman named Mia (Danica Curcic) who has something other people want, badly. We meet Nathalie Raven (Frances Conroy), an environmentalist with a predilection for Internet conspiracy theories, and her charming, patient husband. We are briefly introduced to Father Romanov (Dan Butler). And then something terrible happens that has nothing to do with supernatural forces. It rocks the normally quiet little town to the core, setting up factions and internal conflict.

[See some featurettes about The Mist here]

We’ve had a few TV series in recent years based on Stephen King novels. The Dead Zone and Haven were successful, long-running series that used the respective novels as launch pads. Under the Dome was a less successful experiment, lasting only three seasons before being canceled. The Mist feels a little like Haven. Part of the familiarity may be that both series were filmed in Nova Scotia. Aerial shots of Bridgeville will call to mind similar shots of the fictional Haven.

That town was strange to begin with, and the locals had generations of dealing with oddity. Bridgeville is Normal Town, USA. It has all the problems that any small town has. Domestic squabbles between couples. Parents objecting to teachers who go beyond the mandated guidelines, especially where Sex Ed is concerned. A social environment that revolves around the high school football team, the Bridgeville Badgers. Issues of sexual identity and sexual impropriety. Well-meaning (perhaps) but invasive neighbors. Macho cops. It’s Harper Valley PTA meets Friday Night Lights, in a sense. But then the mist rolls in, and the residents of this already fractured town are both split apart and thrown together under horrible circumstances.

Given that this is airing on a cable network, the show isn’t handicapped in terms of language. The special effects thus far look very good, and they certainly don’t shy away from some extremely graphic shots. The budget isn’t huge, so sometimes things are left to the viewer’s imagination, which works surprisingly well. There is some solid directing here, too. One lingering shot of the entrance at the shopping mall will no doubt put people on edge, mostly because we can imagine what is happening beyond. We, the audience, have a better idea than the characters to at this point. It’s quite effective.

It’s hard to judge a series based on a single episode, of course, but this show looks good on the screen, and the acting is solid and credible. Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under, American Horror Story) is guaranteed to make things interesting, and the histories of some characters who are thrust together should make for some interesting interactions, too.

It also isn’t completely clear what is in the mist. There’s no guaranteeing that the creators of this series have felt obligated to follow King’s novella completely. Is it the bugs that are so prevalent in the premiere, or will there be bigger and badder things to come? Remains to be seen.

The creators promise Easter Eggs, and I saw a few that were subtle. The concept of the “black spring” reminds me of the Troubles from Haven. There were toads that made me think of “Rainy Season” and a scene that reminded me of “They’re Creeping Up On You” from Creepshow. The fact that a significant part of the story will take place in a shopping mall calls to mind Dawn of the Dead. While this version of the story takes place in a different universe from the novella or Frank Darabont’s film, there are obvious linkages, with Arrowhead being the most obvious and a character’s last name that you might not catch if you aren’t paying attention.

What does Stephen King think of the series?

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