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The Mist movie review

Stephen King movie adaptations have an uneven history, delivering films as far apart in quality as The Shining and Sleepwalkers. The The Mist movie postergeneral rule you can learn from this contrast is that the more liberties the director takes with the source material, the better a Stephen King movie adaptation is. When in the hands of a director willing to find his own way through the story, the difference is as great as between Kubrick’s The Shining and Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone when contrasted with the TV adaptations of The Shining or The Last Stand.

Frank Darabont however sticks pretty closely to the novella of The Mist up until the ending and its gruesome twist. He does introduce a greater role for the military portraying the soldiers as human beings and even victims, something Stephen King who is still stuck in a hippie mindset in which soldiers are demons from hell and evil (e.g. The Long Walk, The Stand, Dreamcatcher) is incapable of doing. Darabont’s Mist builds on the strength of The Mist novella, but it’s less about the monsters outside, than about how the people inside react to the coming of the mist.

Thomas Jane manages to sail through David Drayton, though he fumbles some of the atmospheric ‘horror movie’ lines about the Mist. Andre Braugher is completely miscast as Brent Norton, the arrogant lawyer neighbor of the novella. He’s too likable too early on to fit the part of the obnoxious lawyer who narrowmindedly refuses to accept the reality of the mist outside. Laurie Holden is miscast, only because she can’t act and delivers half her lines with a smirk or a sneer. Marcia Gay Harden goes all out as Mrs Carmody, but where the original Mrs. Carmody was a sinister old woman, Harden’s Carmody is a stereotypical middle aged religious fanatic inspired by a liberal watching Jesus Camp, rather than the kind of old woman people used to burn as witches. Preachy yes, scary no.

Frank Darabont does a good job of handling the suspense involved, the creatures are generally almost as nasty as they are in the novella and the creature effects are pretty good, barring the clearly CGI tentacles at the loading dock and the botched giant creature on the road. The human drama is at the core of the story and the casting of the ordinary townsfolk is pretty good. The pharmacy scene is appropriately horrific but the editing makes it too confusing in places ruining the suspense. The scene of Drayton and his passengers driving by the supermarket and everyone trapped inside is a fantastic moment and good enough to be the ending. Unfortunately it isn’t.

For better or worse Darabont chooses a Lord of the Flies ending that moves from a mass suicide to the revelation that the army has saved the day and he has killed his family for nothing. It’s certainly the gruesome shock ending Stephen King promised us and presumably it’s supposed to make us think, but an ending that completely devalues the characters’ journey is also a bad ending because it jettisons any real reason to care about what went before. As the ending now tells us, all Drayton really had to do was keep quiet, keep his head down and he and his son would have gotten rescued. And is that really the message Darabont wants to send?

Thoughts on The Mist Ending

This contains spoilers for the ending of The Mist. If you have already seen the movie or don’t mind being spoiled read on, if you do, then don’t. That clear enough?

The Mist movie posterWell Stephen King and Frank Darabont promised a shocker ending for The Mist and arguably they delivered. Where Stephen King’s novella The Mist ended on an ambiguous note with a vague promise of hope ala Cell, The Mist’s cinematic ending is somewhat promising and yet ominous for humanity, but utterly devastating for David Drayton. Overriding that, the sight of the marching troops is not really in contrast with Drayton’s devastating realization that he not only murdered his son and his friends for nothing, but that in the end the human impulse is no better at the individual level than it is at the government level.

I suspect that Frank Darabont got his idea for the ending of The Mist from the ending of Lord of the Flies, as the navy warships arrive to rescue the boys, who are themselves a microcosm of England and the world. So too the supermarket is in the end meant to be a microcosm of America. The army appears to have won against the creatures of The Mist but at a high price and the decisions they make are not likely to be any better than the decisions David Drayton or the rest of the people in the supermarket made. In the end we’re all human, all flawed and we don’t know what we’re doing.

An ending that completely devalues the journey the characters have gone through is also a bad ending because it jettisons any real reason to care about what went before. (As Stephen King should have learned when he ended the Dark Tower so miserably.) As the ending now tells us, all Drayton really had to do was keep quiet, keep his head down and he and his son would have gotten rescued. Is that really a message Darabont wants to send, especially for a political movie?

I would say that having Drayton howl a second time was a mistake. It’s redundant after the car howling and it would have been far more devastatingly effective and closer to real life, for him to stumble along joining and merging with the soldiers and refugees, shocked and stunned and walking toward a new life he doesn’t know.

Bad News for The Mist’s Expectations – Stephen King Approves of It

As everyone knows Stephen King hates the movies based on his books and stories that don’t suck, such as say The Shining and The Dead Zone and loves the ones that do suck. He even tried to remake the Shining as a TV mini-series starring the guy from Wings and some glowing furniture. He directed Maximum Overdrive, a movie about evil trucks gone bad. So it’s safe to say if Stephen King likes a horror movie based on his work, it’s a bad bad movie.

Now it seems the Mist has a new ending to substitute for the rather ambigious ending of the original The Mist novella by Stephen King, via Frank Darabont and apparently King approves of it and warns us not to “give it away.” That suggests either empty hype or a completely unnecessary shock ending, one of the overall patterns in King’s work that he has commented on is that the kids don’t die. So we can expect that as a possibility, as well as just everyone being eaten.

Frank wrote a new ending that I loved. It is the most shocking ending ever and there should be a law passed stating that anybody who reveals the last 5 minutes of this film should be hung from their neck until dead.

Well the last 5 minutes can only do so much and spoilers are most likely to involve the death of characters. I mean I don’t see the last 5 minutes sending the cast of Half Life back to their original evil dimension. I don’t see the change as being a completely happy go lucky ending where they reach safety. Stephen King certainly wouldn’t love that, so we’re left with a final 5 minutes that may kill off all or many of the characters more so than in the novella or leave them in a hopeless situation altogether.

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