The differences between the two are, ahem, black and white. Whereas both are highly stylised presentations, the colour is quite garish and of a comic-book appearance, with primaries - red and green, especially - having been boosted and the b/w version hitting a more evocative stance of what could be described as “electric-vintage”, with its whites and greys ultra-clean and noticeably heightened.
Okay, let's look at the colour version of The Mist first, shall we?
Well, as I've said the colours have been enhanced, granting the film a bright sheen that acts well as a contrast to the blank face of the mist. Skin tones are quite flushed and ruddy in some cases. This fits in with the deep saturation of the rest of the palette, though, so does not look garishly out of place and even helps to lend the image a comic-book feel. Blood doesn't look particularly realistic, however. But flames and lantern or torchlight exude healthy and warm looking glows. The items on the shelves of the supermarket are brightly rendered and the colour of clothing is also cleanly picked out. I didn't notice any smearing going on.
Contrast has been ramped-up, purposely igniting the whites and greys of the mist, itself, to give it a cool phosphorescence. This is especially noticeable when the store-room shutter is opened and when poor Norm is dragged off into it. Other moments of misted-murk are more subdued and realistic - the pharmacy search team leaving the supermarket, for instance, or the race to get to the vehicles during the final act. Blacks are strong and deep enough to provide ample presence. Shadowy murk is not so solid as to deny the details within to become apparent, however. The subdued lighting - willowing and awash with a sickly pale pallor - when our main protagonists drive slowly through the mist is well done with some neat variance in the shadowy surrounding greys.
Detail in the colour version is very good. Faces, eyes and clothing are scrubbed-up and offer lots of information that the SD edition cannot reveal. Likewise the items on the shelves and the nasty little mandibles of the bugs and spiders. The CG does tend to stand out a little more in colour, though. Ghastly tendrils of webbing on victims' faces and stretched around buildings are well delineated and the few distance shots look just fine, with a crisp and far-reaching depth of field that can, on the rare occasions when the mist isn't obscuring everything more than five feet away, provide a splendidly three-dimensional image. Edge enhancement is there but not to any detrimental effect and grain is still evident at times, which means that no excessive DNR has been applied. There is no banding taking place within the thick swathes of grey mist, either. Thus, the colour transfer is great and unproblematic. I wouldn't place it in the top tier of 1080p images, but this is still a fine presentation.
Moving on to the b/w version on the second disc, we have Frank Darabont's preferred cut of the film. This presentation reveals two splendid things that immediately place it higher in terms of filmic quality, as far as I am concerned. Firstly, the monochromic structure lends The Mist and, indeed, the mist, a luminous, spectral quality that heightens whites to a point where they seem to bleed from the screen, electrified and pulsing with energy. There are moments when even lights inside the mall, appearing over someone's shoulder, say, seem much brighter than should be, intentionally (I firmly believe) evoking the presence of the mist even during times when it is not seen. This powerful luminosity is pertinently evoked when we first encounter the eerie fog rolling in off the mountains across the lake and, especially, when we see it illuminated by the torches of the scavenging sortie to the pharmacy, then and later on as Drayton and co drive through it with headlights blazing. Secondly, the black and white image also seems to lessen the fakery of the CG effects, smoothing over the glaring blatancy of the tentacles, the bug-critters and the spider-beasts. Now such effects blend in so much more. Those toothy tendrils that haul poor Norm off into the mist now have more substance and reality within the picture.
Detail is also revealingly rendered with the crispness that a lack of colour and saturation lends. With excellent contrast levels - all the more important in this version - gradation within the mist, itself, is now prevalent and exacting. Facial detail is more precise with close-ups becoming acutely delineated in regards to eyes, crags, stubble and cuts etc. Edges - be they the shelves in the mall, the branches of the collapsed tree on Drayton's boathouse, the acidic web-lashes of the spiders, the cracks made in the windows and so on - are also rendered with more of a strict tightness than evidenced in the colour version. As such, some shots look positively amazing shorn of hues and with colour replaced by texture. The few landscape and/or distance shots exhibit a greater sense of depth as a consequence, with far away objects seeming just that little bit deeper pressed into the recesses of the image.
Greys and blacks are strongly handled with a natural gradation across the range. Murky scenes such as David's first exploration of the store-room and the dangerous mission into the pharmacy still employ plenty of fine detail within the shadows. The mist, during scenes of its folding over the cars in the parking lot or when people begin to prowl through it delivers a fair degree of subtle variation and texture. Transfer-wise, the b/w version does seem to expose more grain and a couple of elements of artefacting to the eye, but none of which are anything to get concerned about as the separation, detail and contrast more than compensate.
So, for me personally, I think I prefer the black and white version. Somehow, it just looks stronger and cleaner, unclouded by issues of saturation or primary enhancement. Plus, it has a more atmospheric aesthetic that, being a devout lover of vintage genre fare, just elevates its mood considerably.
Although presence is definitely there, it rarely does the things that you expect from a lossless track that has to deal with such things as plentiful screaming, impacts, gunshots and frantic activity. The very first scene - of Drayton and family witnessing the storm's arrival - is immediately ominous and full of enveloping sound, yet when the tree comes through the window from the left speaker, the effect is distinctly less than amazing. Activities such as people running about and doing battle with the flying bug-critters features a fair degree of wraparound yet, for some reason, you are more noticing of the sudden scream, voice or crash emanating from behind you because it actually sounds a little bit forced as opposed to a well-designed and immersive soundscape. Occasional effects - scrapes, murmurs and voices from the mob - are lobbed over your shoulder, but the track, for the most part, is frontally-based. Whilst this is not surprising, given that The Mist actually proves to be quite heavily dialogue-driven, I do feel that the overall dynamics are lacking and far from natural-sounding.
Isham's score, essentially during the final act and the end credits, is suitably ethereal and the mournful wailing of Lisa Gerrard's 'The Host of Seraphim' from the 1988 Dead Can Dance album, The Serpent's Egg comes across well with a decent range and clarity, suffusing the track with stagnant melancholy. The most memorable moments are those that feature the sub and some crashing bass levels to pummel the environment. The apparent quake that heralds the arrival of the mist at the doors to the mall is wonderfully aggressive. Deep resonating rumbles and thick heavy bass thumps roll about the room with great vigour. But the bug-attack in which the flying-mouths lay siege to the hapless fugitives does go some way to bringing out some more typical surround mayhem to the mix. Fluttering, screeching and buzzing critters swirl around the set-up and we get to here disparate battles taking place all around the environment, with some fine directionality and steerage. There are even one or two occasions when monstrous feet, claws or paws scuttle over our heads. Gunshots, however, don't sound so shockingly loud or bombastic. Admittedly, there aren't all that many of them, but given that they play a far more crucial and devastating part in the proceedings than simply the blowing away of beasties, I would have expected a deliberate, if artsy, perhaps, interpretation on the track. As it is, apart from the two-shot killing that we have all been praying for, they all seem a little submerged in the overall sonic scheme.
But, even despite The Mist not sounding quite as wild or as effective as I might have hoped, the experience is still an enjoyable one. The frontal array boasts quite a wide separation that keeps things lively. Dialogue is firmly and clearly presented at all times and the little popping splats of flesh as baby spiders erupt is also nicely featured. So, this is still a track that can be exciting at times.
Whilst Disc 2 only supplies an introduction to the b/w version of the film from Frank Darabont - which may be nice to have, but actually ends up labouring the point a bit too much as though the camera has simply been left running and the writer/director left to waffle - the main body of extras are to be found on Disc 1.
Darabont contributes a fine commentary track over the colour theatrical version of the film. Highly amicable and engaging, he goes in-depth into his experiences making the film and supplies a lot of explanation for the choices that he made in the adaptation of King's original story. Naturally, the climax of the movie - the biggest deviation from the source material - gets a lot of coverage and Darabont does not disappoint in his outlook and justification for such a shocking denouement. Elsewhere, all the usual things are offered up, from casting, production and effects to the writing, characterisation and underlying themes. Darabont is an excellent communicator and you should have absolutely no trouble staying the distance with this track.
In a rare appearance, Stephen King actually crops up for a 12.17 minute chat with his buddy Darabont (who will become quite ubiquitous throughout the array of extras on offer) in A Conversation With Stephen King and Frank Darabont. The duo sits close together and indulges in a purely Mist-related chinwag that, sadly, feels contrived and bogus. They discuss a lot of things that they must have already gone over with one another a thousand times before and the set-up just feels cloyingly saccharine. Darabont is especially patronising and sycophantic, and the most interesting thing that I learned from this was that King seems to have absorbed Brad Dourif's face! Honestly, you look at that side-on profile.
After this misstep, the main meat of the matter is the fairly substantial documentary entitled When Darkness Came: The Making of The Mist. Running for 38 minutes, this incorporates the main cast members of Jane, Harden, Sadler, Jones and Braugher as well as their shepherd Darabont and even a small appearance from super-scribe Stephen King who, once again, talks about how his little baby has been elevated by his regular adaptor. What is really worthwhile about this otherwise typically back-slapping, praise-heavy doc is the use of copious on-set footage of scenes actually being filmed. This sort of thing works so much better in this context than the more boringly conventional fashion of cobbling lots of finished film-clips together to simply pad things out. It is also quite cool to hear from Thomas Jane regarding the ending with a poignant shot of him quietly contemplating the horrific implications of what his character is about to experience.
Tere's nothing about the 8 Deleted Scenes that stands out. Merely scene extensions and unnecessary padding that Darabont, in his optional commentary regarding their excision, confirms. With a Play All option, these snipped-bits run to 14.47 minutes.
Taming The Beast: Shooting Scene 35 (12.10) takes an in-depth look at the 6-day shoot that brought creature chaos and death to the supermarket when the windows are shattered by the bugs and birds from beyond. We hear from all concerned - the editor, assistant director, camera operators, effects crew, the cast and, naturally, from Darabont. This is definitely a complex sequence and the featurette chronicling its execution is a real treat in explaining just how such a wild and diverse set-piece is put together. Great stuff.
Monsters Among Us: A Look At The Creature F/X (12.44) brings us the extremely talented and hard-working Greg Nicotero, the makeup and prosthetic effects powerhouse who has been producing movie-madness, mutilations and monsters for almost thirty years now. We see conceptual artwork, maquettes, prop design and manipulation on-set. Famed comic-book illustrator Bernie Wrightson, specialist in the macabre, reveals his input into the creature designs for the film as well.
The Horror Of It All: The Visual F/X Of The Mist (16.02) is a sister-piece to the former feature. This reveals where the real effects left off and the digital trickery took over. The crossover was mutually strong with both creative teams working closely together to dream up and visualise the many bizarre lifeforms populating the mist. With soundbites from lots of CG artists and animators, the best moment comes at the end when they discuss how the memorable big beastie came to be. Whilst I am not overly fussed on the CG in this film, I still enjoyed this look at how it was all achieved.
A terrific little feature comes next. Drew Struzan: An Appreciation Of An Artist runs for 7.31 mins and introduces us to movies' most unsung hero - the poster artist. Struzan is a grand master - this is the guy responsible for posters for Indiana Jones, The Thing, Star Wars, Et, Blade Runner, Shawshank Redemption, Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth amongst a vast array of others over several decades of evocative and cult-adored work. Darabont is clearly in awe of this guy and loves the fact that they were able to copy Struzan's studio for David Drayton's in the film and utilise his own amazing artwork to adorn the walls. A bonus is hearing from Guillermo Del Toro, as well. Great piece, folks.
To round things out we have three theatrical trailers for The Mist and a triple-bill of webisodes hosted by Darabont. Nothing in these is new to us after watching all the other special features, though. Together with a Play All, the webisodes run for 10 minutes.
This a solid selection of bonuses for The Mist. Darabont does become a little irritating with his near-constant presence throughout, but this is still a very thorough look at the making of the film and fans will find much to savour. A strong 8 out of 10.
As far as extra features go, there is plenty to get your teeth into. The complex breakdown of Scene 35 is a real smart piece, and it is great to meet Drew Struzan, but Darabont's frank and fun commentary is the most comprehensive item on the list. So, overall, this Stephen King adaptation comes very highly recommended. Don't let it pass you by in The Mist.
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