Misanthropes in the Mist, 27 November 2007
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
*** This comment may contain spoilers ***
It’s official: Stephen King and Frank Darabont hate humanity. It’s almost impossible to fathom that these two were responsible for the life-affirming “Shawshank Redemption” when you consider their last two collaborations: the covertly vile and morally misguided “Green Mile” and now this bleak and hazy endeavor. Here they go back to King’s roots in this horror tale of a mysterious mist that falls on a small town and the group of people trapped in a grocery store who must survive the monsters lurking in the fog. Leading the cast are Thomas Jane as the artistic everyman (a stock King character), Laurie Holden as the pretty school teacher, and Nathan Gamble as Jane’s emotionally distraught little boy (another King archetype). Also along for the ride are Toby Jones as a spry and sensible grocery clerk, and Andre Braugher as an irate out-of-town lawyer.
Darabont is a director of considerable skill, and it’s pretty amazing what he is able to do with a small budget in his depiction of some truly horrifying monsters and well orchestrated bouts of gore. He builds suspense, creates likable characters to root for, and crafts a fun, scary ride for the better portion of the film. Like in all the best horror films, the creatures are symbolic for modern society’s ills. Here the filmmakers explore the current “culture of fear” that has been created in the wake of 9/11 by politicians and religious zealots. Like most of King’s works, humans are even scarier than the creatures as seen in the character portrayed in great over-the-top style by Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden. Her fire and brimstone preaching quickly divides those trapped in the grocery store down the lines of those who will be paralyzed by fear and turn to barbaric ways disguised as religion, and those who will do anything to fight for the right to survive. For the first one hour and forty-five minutes, the audience is treated to a well crafted, allegorical little monster flick, a throwback to those great creature features of the 1950’s.
*SPOILER ALERT!!!!! DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU PLAN TO SEE THE FILM WITH AN OPEN MIND!!!!!*
With less than ten minutes to the credits rolling, Darabont decides to bash his political message into the back of our skulls with all the subtlety of the blunt side of an ax. “The Mist” is impossible to talk about without talking about the ending. After keeping the nut-jobs at bay and effectively escaping the grocery story, five of the characters travel in relative safety inside a car to see how far the mist has conquered and if anyone else survived. With the mist still all enveloping, the car runs out of gas.
Nothing Thomas Jane’s character says or does (with the exception of promising his young son that he will never let the monsters get him) lead the audience to believe he would do what he does when it seems that all is lost. All throughout the movie he fights and overcomes his fear, yet at the last minute, without even a second-thought, he does the unthinkable with a gun, four bullets, and five people, and is left to wallow in his own misery. His character, and those other people in the car, didn’t deserve that. Had he stayed true to his character, before agreeing to shoot everyone in the car after it ran out of gas lest the monsters savagely eat them, he would’ve stepped out of the vehicle to check things out one last time before giving up. Then he would’ve seen that the mist was now harmless and heard the army trucks coming. Or had the monsters come and eaten him, as they all feared, then there would still be the four bullets for the four left in the car. Instead we have to suffer through this complete betrayal and are left with images of the writer and director shaking their fingers at us, “See, you idiots! This is what could happen if you buy into this culture of fear. You become the monsters!”
Well, I don’t buy it. Next time, boys, don’t try to be so profound and just deliver us a good monster movie. We know you can you do it. You were so close here. You’re really good at writing horror stories, Stephen, and you’re an ace behind the camera, Frank, but sadly through “The Mist” your disdain for mankind shines brighter than your collective talents.
Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:
This movie still haunted me when I got home, so I looked it up online. King’s ending of the book is actually much better and focuses more on “hope” for everyone, rather than Darabont’s bleak ending. I’m not sure why he changed it at all. So close to a GREAT horror flick.
Horsie, yes, King’s original ending to the novella was more ambiguous and left it up to the reader to decide how it would really end, but it still carried the same message. Also, King fully endorsed Darabont’s interpretation for the ending, which leaves me to believe he always imagined it would’ve ended that way. –DHS
wow, of all the places to get trapped in. I’ve seen the trapped in a hotel movies, trapped underground, even trapped on a spaceship…….but man a grocery store! lol, at least they’ll be able to survive for months until the army gets there.
Nicole, yeah, well, the people get a little hysterical before they realize that is the sanest thing to do…just wait it out and enjoy the free grub. –DHS
To tell you the truth I was infuriated with the ending. It began to leave a bad taste in my mouth as soon as they decided to get in the car and “see how far the gas would take them.” Not too long after I realized that it was not my popcorn but BULLSHIT! He shot his freakin son! It seems more like they just ran out of ideas and just said, “hey let’s just make an ending that will piss everyone off!”
Carl, the most infuriating thing about it was that the actions were completely contrary to the way Thomas Jane’s character had been acting in the rest of the film. There is no way he would’ve shot his son. It was a ridiculous shock tactic that betrayed both the characters and the audience. –DHS